Griezmann vindicated by Super Cup victory

TALLINN (Estonia) • Antoine Griezmann has said that Atletico Madrid's Uefa Super Cup win has justified his decision to stay at the club after snubbing a move to Spanish LaLiga champions Barcelona.

The 27-year-old, who scored four goals as he helped France win the World Cup last month, was speaking after Atletico beat rivals Real Madrid 4-2 on Wednesday thanks to goals from midfielders Saul Niguez and Koke in extra time.

"I stayed at Atletico because the project is a good one. I have confidence in this club, in the coach and I saw tonight that I was not mistaken," said Griezmann, who turned down a move to Barcelona in the summer and signed a contract extension till 2023.

"We know that physically the two teams have not reached 100 per cent, the key was the desire to win.

"It was time for us to win the Uefa Super Cup again, it was very important to start the season like this."

Diego Costa gave Europa League holders Atletico a dream start against Champions League winners Real after just 49 seconds.

Real, playing their first competitive game since all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo left and Julen Lopetegui succeeded Zinedine Zidane as coach, pulled level through Karim Benzema in the 27th minute.

Real, who beat Atletico in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals and also dumped them out of the competition in 2015 and 2017, looked set to pour more pain on their neighbours when Juanfran handled and skipper Sergio Ramos tucked the penalty away.

Diego Simeone's side, however, are renowned for their fighting spirit and despite being outplayed for most of the second half they got back in the game with 12 minutes left through Costa's second goal.

Atletico then won the Cup for the third time in nine seasons, after Saul and Koke scored in the 98th and 104th minute respectively.

It was the first time Atletico had beaten Real in European competition and Lopetegui said that his side had played well despite the defeat, but he also congratulated Atletico for their ruthlessness.

"A final is typically won by the team who capitalises on circumstances and Atletico are experts in doing that and they deserved to win," he said. "We aren't happy with the result, it's not normal for us to concede four goals... But I insist that we played well."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2018, with the headline 'Griezmann vindicated by Super Cup victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe