Atlético Madrid have started the defence of their Europa League title with a 3-0 victory over Hapoel.
While star players Falcao and Arda Turan, as well as regulars Diego Godín, Filipe and Gabi, stayed behind in Madrid, the team that Simeone fielded was still more than capable.
‘The Replacements’ dominated from start to finish and will have assured Simeone that his bench players are ready to step up when needed.
Miranda, captain Mario and Diego Costa were the only ones to return to the starting line-up after Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Rayo Vallecano, and they were joined by squad players such as Sílvio, Cata Díaz and Emre, who hadn’t featured much for Simeone’s side so far.
On the left side, the coach handed a debut to Atleti’s final signing of the summer, Cisma, who made a good impression against the Israeli runners-up.
Two of Atleti’s longest serving players, who have never received much praise at the Vicente Calderón, ran the show in Tel Aviv on Thursday night. Raúl García and Diego Costa were involved in every offensive move and contributed in all of Los Rojiblancos‘ goals.
After the duo had already fired off warning shots for Hapoel, they set up Cristián Rodríguez for the opening goal in the 37th minute. The Onion received the ball just outside the box and blasted it into the top corner to give Atleti a deserved lead.
It was Rodríguez’ first goal for Atlético, and a fine one at that.
At the other end Sergio Asenjo had a quiet night. The home side only came close when Toto Tamuz volleyed wide after a nice move by winger Ben Haim.
Shortly before the break, and just a few minutes after Cebolla’s cracker, Atleti decided the match. Raúl García again won the ball in midfield, and Adrián sliced open the Hapoel defence with a fantastic pass with the outside of his right boot. His assist reached Diego Costa, who went past goalkeeper Edel in full speed and then calmly finished.
Often we’ve seen Atlético take their foot of the gas after a strong opening half, but the reserves didn’t hold back and continued their strong performance. After 63 minutes Raúl García decided the match with an excellent volley. The midfielder was unmarked and spectacularly converted Emre’s corner kick into a goal.
In the final minutes of the match Sergio Asenjo did well to keep a clean sheet. Although hardly involved, he managed to react quickly to stop Cohen’s low drive. It was a hiccup in an otherwise nearly perfect performance for Atleti. The boys got off to a great start in Group B of the Europa League and continued their win streak in European games.
The game between Viktoria Plzen, our next opponent, and Académica Coimbra, ended in a 3-1 victory for the Czechs. In two weeks we’ll see if they are able to prevent Atleti from getting win number 15.
Line-up: Asenjo; Sílvio, Miranda, Cata Díaz, Cisma; Raúl García, Mario, Emre, Rodríguez (“74 Juanfran); Diego Costa (“78 Saúl) and Adrián (“69 Koke).
Goals: 0-1 Rodríguez (“37); 0-2 Diego Costa (“41); 0-3 Raúl García (“63)