Atlético Madrid have won the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 fixture, impressing at the Stadio Olímpico with a huge 3-1 win over S.S. Lazio.
Diego Simeone, who had a four-year spell with the Romans during his playing career, surprised by including Koke in the starting line-up at the expensive of Arda Turan. In the center of defence Diego Godín and Miranda returned after missing the game at Racing due to injury and suspension, respectively.
Atleti nearly were off to a flying start, but Falcao wasn’t able to keep his shot down after being assisted by Koke.
The Rojiblancos were then hit hard on the counter. A nice move by Adrián and Falcao resulted in nothing and the home side quickly broke forward. The normally extremely reliable Thibaut Courtois spilled Hernanes’ shot and we conceded the 1-0, as German veteran Miroslav Klose made the most of the howler and scored the rebound.
It was one of few and rare mistakes by Courtois, who hadn’t conceded yet under Simeone and had managed to keep a clean sheet for 648 minutes.
Atlético swiftly responded and levelled the scoreline five minutes after the opening goal. A cross by Juanfran was deflected and then headed goalwards by Falcao. Adrián reacted quickly and volleyed the ball past Marchetti.
It was already Adrián’s sixth in European competition this season, and our first goal in three games.
Atleti didn’t stop there. We played dominantly on Lazio’s half and shortly before the break we took a deserved lead. After Adrián flicked on the ball, Diego did superbly to hold off his man and deliver a cross to Falcao, who scored from close range.
In the final minute of the first half Falcao almost scored a spectacular second goal, but Marchetti was able to save the striker’s diving header. The way the Colombian reached Filipe’s cross most resembled a salmon jumping up a downstream river. Last season’s Europa League topscorer was in great form as Atleti headed into half time with a 2-1 lead.
After the break Lazio crawled out of their shell and tried to play further forward, but the biggest opportunity early on was for Atleti. Adrián did extremely well with an inventive backheel and Koke saw his shot stopped on the goalline by a Lazio defender.
Shortly after an hour had been played, Atlético decided the match and with that most likely the double encounter too. After another attack set up by Diego and Adrián, the latter crossed for Falcao to tap in the third goal. It was Falcao’s fifth goal in the tournament this season, and he has now scored 23 goals in 23 Europa League games.
With the comfortable lead, Simeone decided to give rest to Adrián and Diego, realizing that on Sunday we’ll play our third game in the space of eight days.
After the third goal it seemed the Biancocelesti lost all hope of turning the game around, and Atleti were able to see out the remainder of the game without much effort.
Next week Atlético will defend their two goal lead at the Vicente Calderón.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran (“82 Salvio), Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Diego (“72 Arda), Gabi, Mario, Koke; Adrián (“65 Perea) and Falcao.
Goals: 1-0 Klose (“19); 1-1 Adrián (“25); 1-2 Falcao (“37); 1-3 Falcao (“62)