Two first half goals from Antoine Griezmann and a Fernando Torres header helped Atleti to a 3-0 win against Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday, in what was their most impressive showing so far this pre-season.
The red and whites return to Spain on a high after a successful tour of Asia, as fans flocked to the Shanghai Stadium to watch Diego Simeone’s team.
It was a special game for Cholo as well, as he came up against a former manager of his in Sven-Goran Eriksson. The two were together at Lazio back in the late 1990’s.
The Argentine boss lined up with Antoine Griezmann and Luciano Vietto in attack, opting not to play crowd favourite Fernando Torres from the start.
Óliver Torres and Koke were also included as their line of support, and it didn’t take long for the front four to click into gear as Atleti dominated the opening 45 minutes.
Griezmann it was who opened the scoring seven minutes in, taking a diagonal ball from Gabi perfectly in his stride before calmly stroking the ball into the bottom corner.
This set the tone for the half, with the impressive Óliver taking control of proceedings against the Chinese league leaders.
It was a similar story for the second goal, this time Koke the assistant after a break forward into the box. He layed-off Griezmann, who finished superbly with his weaker right foot from 20 yards.
Both goals were made to look so simple, as Shanghai struggled with the movement and flair of Atleti’s front four.
Fellow Frenchman Lucas Hernández should’ve increased the lead from point blanc range soon after, but hit the crossbar with his headed attempt.
It was more great work from Óliver to fashion the chance, demonstrating his wonderful technique to divert Koke’s corner back into the danger zone at the back post.
Koke then almost found the net himself from a free-kick, but the ‘keeper just managed to get a hand to it and push it onto the bar having been taken by surprise.
Like in previous friendlies, Cholo rang the changes during the half-time break, and almost immediately from the re-start they had combined for the third goal.
Griezmann was denied the chance to get a hat-trick, but like he did against Real Madrid and Barcelona last season, Fernando Torres added his name to the scoresheet less than a minute after kick-off.
Only just on himself, Yannick Carrasco picked the ball up on the edge of the box and curled an inviting ball in for the Atleti number nine to nod into the far corner.
The fans had what they wanted, and it could’ve been more for the La Liga side by the final whistle had they taken their chances.
Torres almost scored after combing with Carrasco for a second time on the hour mark, and in the dying moments, Correa came close to what would’ve been a stunning individual goal if not for the goalkeeper.
All in all, the team will have been happy with their performance, once which will leave fans purring ahead of their return to Spain and the final stages of preparation before the big kick-off on August 22nd.
The tour as a whole will go down as a massive success as well, given the unexpected and unprecedented amount of support for the team in the far east.
With Mr. Jianlin now calling the shots, you can bet that it won’t be the last time we see Atleti in these parts either. Could be exciting times ahead for rojiblancos…
Line-up: Oblak; Juanfran, Savic (“73 Thomas), Lucas (“73 Velázquez), Siqueira (“54 Gámez); Gabi (“63 Xu Xin), Tiago (“45 Saúl), Óliver (“54 Raúl García), Koke (“46 Carrasco); Griezmann (“46 Torres), Vietto (“63 Correa).
Goals: 0-1 Griezmann (“9); 0-2 Griezmann (“25); 0-3 Torres (“46)