Atlético Madrid beat Stade Rennes 3-1 to take the top spot in Group I of the Europa League.
Only a man and his dog, and no, I’m not referring to Gregorio Manzano and Mario Suárez, turned up at the Vicente Calderón on Thursday night.
In all seriousness, attendance was estimated by Cuatro broadcasters at only about 10,000 spectators, well short of the average for the Calderón.
The fans that did decide to attend voiced their discontent after two horrible performances in the past week. Manzano and his players were welcomed with whistles and boos as they entered the pitch.
The coach surprised by starting Sergio Asenjo over Thibaut Courtois. In midfield Koke replaced the suspended Gabi.
The first opportunities of the game were for Rennes. Tettey volleyed wide and Montaño, who scored in our previous meeting, headed straight at Asenjo.
In the 16th minute Atleti were fortunate not to concede, as Mavinga’s header smashed against the crossbar. A minute later Diego had Atleti’s first real chance of the game, but the Brazilian shot wide.
After the opening twenty minutes the game developed into an uneventful affair, until Falcao released Adrián with a great pass from midfield. The Spaniard received a push and went down easily, but convincingly enough for referee Kristtin Jakobson to point to the spot.
Radamel Falcao converted the penalty and has now scored in all of his last five starts.
Atlético immediately delivered Rennes a final blow. Álvaro Domínguez beat Diallo with a well-placed header from a Diego free kick.
In the second half Sergio Asenjo did very well to stop a low shot from Brahimi. From the ensuing corner Pajot headed just wide.
Arda Turan tried his luck from the halfway line, while Diego missed an incredible opportunity after being gifted the ball by Rennes’ centre backs. The playmaker should have put the crown on his performance, but missed 1-on-1 with Diallo.
While the second half was interesting to watch, more so than the first, the supporters mostly used the occasion to throw abuse at Manzano and Miguel Ángel Gil.
10 minutes before the end, Atlético made it 3-0, a flattering scoreline. Arda Turan picked up the ball outside the box, faked a shot and then beautifully curled it into the far corner to score his second goal in consecutive matches.
Sergio Asenjo deserved one, but unfortunately Atleti couldn’t keep a clean sheet. Rennes had been dangerous from set pieces the entire game and scored when Mandjeck headed in a corner.
With the victory the Rojiblancos continue their strong streak in home games, although it must be noted that Rennes coach Antonini rested almost all of his regular starting players.
Atlético have collected 13 points and finish first in Group I, ahead of runners up Udinese.
By topping the group we avoid meeting David de Gea or Sergio Agüero in the next round.
In Friday’s draw Atleti can’t be tied with any other top seeds from the Europa League or with Manchester United, Manchester City, Olympiakos or Valencia, the four best teams joining from the Champions League.
Line-up: Asenjo; Perea (“65 Miranda), Godín, Domínguez, Filipe; Assunção, Koke, Arda Turan (“81 Juanfran), Diego (“76 Tiago); Adrián and Falcao.
Goals: 1-0 Falcao p.k. (“38); 2-0 Domínguez (“42); 3-0 Arda Turan (“78); 3-1 Mandjeck (“87)