Barcelona ditched him last summer because they thought he was too old and slow but Luis Suarez is joint top scorer in Spain at the halfway point of the season and his brace against Eibar put seven points between Diego Simeone’s leaders and second placed Real Madrid.
Suarez took the sponsors’ man-of-the-match at the end of the game when it seemed destined for the hands of Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic, who scored Eibar’s opener from the penalty spot.
The Serbian shot-stopper stepped up on 12 minutes to beat Jan Oblak, sending him the wrong way. Yannick Carrasco had clumsily brought down Yoshi Muto and with Eibar on a bad run of penalty misses the keeper was the chosen man.
‘The coach told me it was my turn,’ Dmitrovic said after the game. ‘It was just a shame that the penalty did not bring us any points.
Suarez saw to that. He got the equaliser on 40 minutes thumping a loose ball in from a tight angle after Marcos Llorente had chased down an Eibar clearance.
Dmitrovic saved well from substitute Joao Felix in the second period but as the clock run down it looked as if both sides would be happy with the point.
Atletico would still have extended their lead at the top and the draw would have helped Eibar in their fight to stay away from the drop zone. But with just five minutes left a long ball was played forward to Suarez.
He looks laboured at times but he transforms when the goal is in sight and he managed to get in front of Eibar defender Arnaiz Arbilla who swung out a leg. The wild challenge made no contact with the ball or the player but as the two players tangled the Uruguayan went down and referee Mario Melero pointed to the spot.
Dmitrovic had scored a penalty could he save one? Suarez stepped up and dinked the ball over the top of his dive, Panenka style, and gave Atletico all three points.
‘It was a real battle in the second half but we showed that if we want to do serious things this season we have to win this type of match,’ said Suarez, who now joins Lionel Messi on 11 goals at the top of the scoring charts.
Diego Simeone praised Suarez on the final whistle: ‘He never switches off,’ he said.
‘Even when it seemed he was out of the game he was there when it mattered to get us back in the game and then win it for us.’