'Who better than Suarez?' says grateful Simeone after epic Atletico win

Striker's goal kept his side two points ahead of Real; win at Valladolid will hand them a first title in seven years


REUTERS May 17, 2021

MADRID:

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said he was grateful the ball dropped to Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan struck an 88th-minute goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Osasuna which kept his side on course to win the La Liga title.

Suarez, Atletico's top scorer this season, had not found the net in his previous five outings and had wasted a series of clear chances in a nerve-shredding penultimate game of the season.

Atletico looked to have blown the chance to win the title when Ante Budimir gave Osasuna a shock late lead, just as nearest challengers Real Madrid went ahead against Athletic Bilbao.

But Brazilian left back Renan Lodi equalised before Suarez finally kept his cool in front of goal to turn in a Yannick Carrasco pass and was then buried beneath a sea of his team mates' bodies.

"Suarez has so much experience and who better than him to resolve a game like that when it looked to be slipping away from us," Simeone told reporters.

"Suarez showed incredible spirit, he has not been scoring recently but he kept on coming close."

The Uruguayan's goal kept Atletico two points ahead of Real Madrid and victory at Real Valladolid in their last game of the season on Sunday will hand them a first title in seven years.

Simeone had talked up the Uruguayan's big-game experience ahead of the match, saying Atletico were "entering the Suarez zone".

Suarez said he had not expected the game to be so difficult.

"Everyone tells you that suffering is part of Atletico's identity but I didn't think we'd suffer that much," the Uruguayan said.

"But that is what this team is about, effort and sacrifice, many people working really hard to ensure the club achieves its objectives. Now we have to rest and prepare for the next game."

No fans could attend the match due to Covid-19 restrictions but several thousand Atletico supporters gathered at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium to cheer the team on from the outside.

"This is inexplicable," said Atletico defender Mario Hermoso.

"When we were 1-0 down and everything going against us, the fans pushed us on even though they couldn't enter the ground. This is Atletico Madrid and you have to live it from the inside to truly understand."

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