Luis Suarez praised the character shown by Atletico Madrid to dig deep and clinch a dramatic 2-1 win over Osasuna that keeps them top of LaLiga.
Atleti’s hopes of landing a first top-flight title in seven years seemed to be dealt a blow in Sunday’s clash at the Wanda Metropolitano when Ante Budimir put mid-table Osasuna in front.
It was the Croatia international’s seventh headed goal of the season – no player in LaLiga has more – but Diego Simeone’s side turned the game around in the final eight minutes.
Substitute Renan Lodi fired in an equaliser and Suarez, who had earlier hit the post and missed a couple of other good chances, guided in a dramatic late winner.
The win ensures Simeone’s side head to Real Valladolid on the final day of the season only needing to match Real Madrid’s result against Villarreal to finish top.
Suarez’s strike came from his seventh shot of the game and the Uruguay international admitted his side were made to suffer for their 25th win of the campaign.
“These are moments of happiness, we did not deserve to suffer as much as we suffered,” he told Movistar.
“We missed many chances – me in particular. But to win the league you have to suffer, as today showed. I knew we would suffer here, but not that much.
“The effort and sacrifice of the team was great, with many people working so that the club can achieve its objectives. Now we have a chance to rest and prepare for the next game.”
Had Suarez not found a way through late on – ending a five-game scoreless run in the process – Atleti would have entered the final matchday second to Madrid in the table.
The ex-Barcelona striker has now earned 19 points for Atletico with his 20 goals – only Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri has helped his team to more points in LaLiga this term.
“Luis has not scored for a bit, but he’s always been involved,” Simeone said at his post-match news conference. “He gives us leadership – who better than him to win the game.
“During the drinks break near the end, I told the players we had to look for the draw. The goal soon arrived and then Suarez showed why he is an important player.”
Atletico have spent 29 matchdays at the top of LaLiga, despite some inconsistent results since the end of January, and are now one game from winning the title.
“We will prepare for the last game with the same enthusiasm to when I arrived at this club in 2011,” Simeone said. “The team will be fierce. I hope the fans will be proud of us.
“We chose this profession trying to do the best we can to reach this moment. You have to prepare in the best way. I don’t understand any other way.”