Radamel Falcao picked up right where he left off last season for Atlético Madrid, hitting his third hat-trick in red and white as Athletic Bilbao were put to the sword in the Vicente Calderón Monday night.
Tiago’s late thunderbolt put the gloss on an excellent all-round performance from the home side, a 4-0 win the perfect preparation heading into the UEFA Super Cup final against Chelsea in Monaco.
The Rojiblancos began the game on the front foot, setting the tempo for a first half played mainly in the opponent’s territory. The first opening fell to Miranda, but the defender could only head over from Koke’s corner.
Simeone’s side dominated for the second game running, and Gabi was the next to threaten, shooting straight at Iraizoz following a well-worked free-kick.
Radamel Falcao had started the game seemingly quietly though, but after drawing a blank in Valencia the previous week, it was only a matter of time before he sniffed out a chance.
On 20 minutes he dragged San José away from goal, before turning the young centre-back on a sixpence and lifting the ball over Iraizoz.
It was a deserved goal, and seemed to open the floodgates for our deadly Colombian striker. Soon after opening the scoring, he should’ve doubled the lead after a fine delivery from Arda, but couldn’t keep his header down.
However, after chances a piece from Aduriz and Koke, Atleti grabbed their second just before the break. The ball broke to Godín on the right-hand side, who, from a suspiciously offside position, crossed for Falcao to acrobatically find the net for a second time.
Again, the angle was a tight one, but there was no denying El Tigre, and it didn’t take long for him to complete his hat-trick in the second half.
After Arda lofted a pass forward on the hourmark, Radamel Falcao drew the penalty via the hand of Gurpegi, before stepping up himself to emphatically send Iraizoz the wrong way and secure the three points.
The home side refused to sit back though, with an intense pre-season again looking to have really paid off. There were no signs of the fatigue that we saw in many games last year, and Simeone was able to afford a rest to key players ahead of the Chelsea game on Friday.
Mario Suárez came inches away from opening his account for the season midway through the half, but his header agonisingly struck both bar and post before rebounding away to safety.
In the last 20 minutes, we saw Diego Costa in the red and white for the first time since May 2011, and he was the next to threaten, forcing a snap-save from Gorka with a well struck low effort.
His great work on the right wing then almost set up a goal for Adrián late on, but he could not find a way past the ‘keeper, who pulled off yet another good save in the ensuing mêlée from Koke.
However, the Colchoneros would not be denied, and it was an unlikely source who completed the rout. After more good play from Costa, the ball broke to fellow substitute Tiago, thrashing the ball into the top corner with a superbly taken first time effort.
The game soon fizzled out, and bar a late curler from Ibai Gómez, Athletic really had not shown anything in an attacking sense during the game. Worrying times for the lions, but nothing to detract from a fine curtain raising performance at the Calderón from Atleti.
Now, we have just four days to prepare for our European show-piece in Monaco, although yet another masterclass from Falcao at least ensures that we go into the game full of confidence.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Mario, Gabi, Koke, Arda (“64 Adrián); Cristian Rodríguez (“71 Diego Costa) and Falcao (“81 Tiago).
Goals: 1-0 Falcao (“20); 2-0 Falcao (“42); 3-0 Falcao p.k. (“59); 4-0 Tiago (“84)