Atlético extended their winning run to 13 matches with a comfortable 3-0 win at Real Jaén on Wednesday night, getting the season’s Copa del Rey campaign off to the perfect start.
However, the game was shaped by a contentious red card and penalty given against the home side early on, who had to play over an hour with a man less.
Goals from Diego Costa, Adrián and Raúl García sealed a deserved win though, in what was another good showing from some of the squad’s fringe players.
The big surprise before kick-off was that first choice ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois had gotten the nod to start ahead of Sergio Asenjo, who had been a regular in the non-league matches so far.
Gabi and Mario Suárez also lined-up in midfield, perhaps to handle the threat from the home side’s engine room that Simeone had pin-pointed before the match.
On a cold night in Andalusia the early exchanges were reasonably even, but it was Atleti who came closest to opening the scoring. Koke, in an attacking midfield role, was the first to react to Sílvio’s cross from the right, but his header was saved by Toni García.
Jaén did try and push forward though, and could have scored themselves a quarter of an hour in if not for an intervention from Cata Díaz, who turned the ball out for a corner.
Cristian Rodríguez was the next to try his luck, but on 25 minutes referee Carlos Delgado made the decision that changed the course of the game, awarding the visitors a penalty and sending off Dani Torres for handball.
A red certainly looked harsh as the defender had no chance to get out of the way of Diego Costa’s point-blanc effort, but despite Gabi and Raúl García’s sympathies, Manolo Herrero’s side were reduced to 10.
Costa stepped up himself, emphatically sending the ‘keeper the wrong way for 1-0.
As expected, Atlético went on to dominate, but didn’t really create any more clear cut chances until the second half. Diego Costa was sent through on goal a couple of times, but in the end was forced wide on both occasions and couldn’t find the angle to finish.
After the break he was joined in attack by Adrián, who gave Simeone’s team another option in attack and went on to double the lead just minutes after his introduction.
The 24 year-old took advantage of some of the gaps that had emerged following Torres’ dismissal, wrong-footing the last defender before neatly lifting the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.
Jáen did manage to apply a sustained period of pressure midway through the half, but in the end the extra man and quality for the away side paid dividends, and some of the youngsters were able to enter the fray.
Óliver Torres especially made a big impact in his cameo appearance, and would’ve scored with his first touch if not for a good save by Toni from his downward header.
The same man was on hand again to deny both Diego Costa and Adrián before the final whistle, but was helpless to prevent Raúl García from grabbing his fifth goal of the season in stoppage time.
After creating the earlier chance, Óliver was again involved, spreading the ball for the rejuvenated Sílvio to cross for the former Osasuna man to steer the ball home with a header.
The one sour note of the evening was a nasty injury sustained by Cristian Rodríguez late on, but the Uruguayan will hopefully be back in contention for Saturday’s crucial clash against Valencia.
Line-up: Courtois; Sílvio, Cata Díaz, Pulido, Cisma; Mario Suárez, Gabi (“68 Saúl); Raúl García, Koke (“60 Adrián), Cristian Rodríguez (“78 Óliver); and Diego Costa.
Goals: 0-1 Diego Costa p.k. (“28); 0-2 Adrián (“62); 0-3 Raúl García (“90+3)