Atletico Madrid temporarily went top of La Liga for the first time this season after beating Real Betis 1-0 in a tight game on Sunday, with a second-half strike from Argentine forward Angel Correa, as coach Diego Simeone’s substitutions paid off. Atletico saw little of the ball against Betis but managed to keep the visitors at bay with shrewd defensive work and had far more chances, including one for Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic who hit the woodwork, although they still struggled to find a way through until Simeone shuffled his pack.
Kalinic, who had come in for the injured Diego Costa, made way for Thomas Partey while Correa was brought on in place of record signing Thomas Lemar and it was the Argentine who won the ball and played a one-two off Partey before arrowing into the far bottom corner in the 74th minute. Atletico lead the standings on 15 points after eight games although champions Barcelona could overtake them if they win at Valencia later or Sunday, while Sevilla will also leapfrog Simeone’s side if they beat Celta Vigo.
“The top teams are stronger because they have great players that can come off the bench, and those substitutes at the top teams are the ones that make the difference when a game is very tight,” said Simeone. “I’m very happy that despite our injury problems we were able to win a very tough game against a team that plays very good football and who have grown a lot defensively.”
Betis went into the game level on points with Atletico and undefeated in their last eight fixtures in all competitions but their usual game plan, based on monopolising possession, bore little fruit against Atletico, who have mastered the art of defending under Simeone.
“It’s not easy against a team that have players designed to do a job like that and we did what we could but our opponents took the game very seriously, they were highly disciplined and pressed us from the front,” said Betis coach Quique Setien.