Atletico need VAR and late winner from injured Godin to beat Bilbao


Madrid (AFP) – Diego Godin played on injured for half an hour and then scored a 91st-minute winner on Saturday as Atletico Madrid twice came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 in La Liga.

Godin pulled a muscle in the 64th minute as Inaki Williams gave Bilbao a 2-1 lead at the Wanda Metropolitano, but Atletico’s captain stayed on as they had made all three of their substitutes.

Rodrigo headed them level with 10 minutes left, before Godin’s close-range finish, initially ruled out for offside, was allowed to stand by referee Jose Sanchez, after consultation with his video assistant referee. 

It proved a spectacular finale to a pulsating encounter, in which Bilbao led twice after Williams’ opener was cancelled out by a long-range strike from Thomas Partey.

“During the Williams goal I felt my muscle go,” Godin said afterwards. “Simeone told me to stay on up front, in case a corner or a ball came into the area. I tried to help and it worked out well.”

Simeone added: “It is one of the most exciting victories in the history of this stadium.”

Victory means Atletico move to within a point of Barcelona, who play at home to Real Betis on Sunday. Bilbao remain 17th, without a win since the opening day of the season.

That run has, however, included draws against both Barca and Real Madrid, and for much of this contest they were the better side too. 

But after beating Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday, Atletico sustained momentum with a comeback made all the more impressive by their lengthy list of absentees. 

Godin and Diego Costa both returned but 19-year-old Francisco Montero had to play alongside Godin in central defence, with Lucas Hernandez, Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic all out injured, along with Thomas Lemar and Koke in midfield. 

“We knew it would be a difficult game, with many players missing, and after a big week for us,” Godin said. “But we will be energised a lot by winning like this. It lifts the fans, and us players too.”

Atletico started brightly enough but Bilbao never looked uncomfortable and gradually grew into the game.

Markel Susaeta fired wide, after Rodrigo carelessly conceded possession, and then instigated the goal, darting free of the sleeping Filipe Luis. 

– Williams troubles Atletico –

Susaeta squared for Mikel San Jose, whose first-time shot was brilliantly clawed onto the post by Jan Oblak. But the ball rolled agonisingly across the line, where Williams was perfectly placed. 

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