Atlético Madrid are back on top of Group I of the Europa League after a convincing 4-0 victory over Udinese.
The Italians rested several first team players and we’re unable to stop Adrián, who scored his second brace in five days.
Gregorio Manzano made just two changes to the team that starred in our 3-1 victory over Zaragoza. Captains Antonio López and Luis Perea came in for fullback duo Filipe and Sílvio.
Atleti got off to a great start and Handanovic was forced to a save after just five minutes when Falcao showed his intent.
Shortly after, the Colombian saw his header saved from the goalline by a Udinese defender. The Colombian has been unfortunate with his finishing these last weeks, but he did enable his partner in attack to score two excellent goals.
Two minutes earlier Falcao had created space for Adrián to run into. The Spaniard was assisted perfectly by Arda Turan and scored with a great finish after holding off two defenders.
And the Atleti storm continued. After just 12 minutes the Rojiblancos were leading 2-0. Adrián headed in his and Atleti’s second from a cross by Antonio López.
The visitors had lined up without their key players and those on the pitch seemed to spend more time sitting down rather than running, with injuries slowing down the pace of the game.
The Zebrette were almost gifted a goal, but Fabbrini forgot to unwrap his present. Diego Godín lost possession on the edge of his own area and Fabbrini picked up the loose ball. But his shot lacked power and precision, and the Italian even injured himself in the process.
In the 37th minute Atlético’s attacking trio created a masterpiece. Adrián played in Diego from the sideline, rushed inside the box to receive Falcao’s backheel and found himself in a perfect position to net his third goal. Instead, Adrián faked the shot and laid it off for Diego, who slotted the ball into the back of the net from close range.
Just three days earlier Filipe was spot on when he said Adrián is too nice to score a hat-trick and instead will look to enable a team-mate to score. The Brazilian couldn’t be more right and the striker is yet to score thrice in one match for Atleti, but scoring four times in the space of a few days is no mean feat either.
Shortly before the break Antonio Floro Flores had a good opportunity, but the goal scorer from the first leg shot wide of Thibaut Courtois’ goal.
The second half was a dull affair until Abdi almost brought down the woodwork with a ferocious shot from outside the box. Atleti immediately punished Udinese as Falcao finally got the goal he was looking for.
The 40 million euro man received the ball just outside of the area and dribbled past two players, before blasting it past Handanovic.
It’s Falcao’s 19th goal in 18 Europa League appearances.
In the 70th minute Koke replaced Diego, and the youngster came incredibly close to scoring within seconds of coming on. After Falcao failed to beat his marker, the ball fell before Koke’s feet. The 19-year-old didn’t hesitate and fired, but his shot whistled past the wrong side of the post.
Some minutes later Falcao out-muscled his opponent, but his shot was saved by Handanovic.
The fans went home after witnessing a strong display by Atleti on a cold and rainy Thursday night. No more goals were scored as the match finished 4-0.
Next up for Atleti in the Europa League is Celtic, who beat Rennes (3-1), but first we have a trip to Getafe coming up on Sunday.
Line-up: Courtois; Perea, Godín, Domínguez, López; Gabi, Mario, Arda Turan, Diego (“70 Koke); Falcao (“83 Pizzi) and Adrián (“77 Salvio).
Goals: 1-0 Adrián (“7); 2-0 Adrián (“12); 3-0 Diego (“37); 4-0 Falcao (“67).