The reigning champions have made a false start in the Europa League. Atlético lost in Thessaloniki tonight, where home team Aris are unbeaten in European competition since 1969.
With Agüero injured and Reyes rested ahead of our match against Barcelona, Atlético started in a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation. Tiago was the midfielder closest deployed to Diego Forlán, but was hardly involved.
The first half was uneventful, with no big opportunities for either side. In the first forty-five minutes, Atlético managed only two shots, with Forlán shooting well wide on both occasions. Aris started enthusiastically, but despite keeping Atleti under pressure were never able to threaten De Gea.
Quique Sánchez Flores decided to make a tactical change at the start of the second half and brought in Diego Costa for Raúl García. The Brazilian striker immediately caused trouble for the Greek defenders and created a good opportunity four minutes after the break, but Costa couldn’t get his shot on target.
It was the home team that took the lead in the second half through a spectacular goal in the 59th minute. One of Aris’ two Spaniards, Javito, struck the ball beautifully on a volley after controlling it on his chest.
Immediately after the goal Reyes was brought on for Fran Mérida, who returned to the starting XI, having recovered from a hip injury that kept him out of our first two league games.
Attempts by Diego Costa and Tiago went far wide, before Aris were given the opportunity to double the lead after a slip up by David de Gea. The young goalkeeper mishit the ball and handed Aris’ other Spaniard, Koke, the ball. He hit the post and Valera was fortunate to block Javito’s rebound, which seemed like it was going in.
In the 79th minute, Aris twice managed to prevent the equaliser, first when a corner was cleared off the goalline and shortly after when Diego Costa headed over from close range.
On the other side, Koke almost spectacularly scored the decisive second goal. He volleyed it just over the bar after beautifully controlling it on his chest, with De Gea getting a hand on it.
Atleti continued to go forward but Godín’s bicycle attempt and Simão’s free-kick went over and wide of Sifakis’ goal. Our final shot on goal came in injury time, but Simão shot straight into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Line-up: De Gea; Valera, Godín, Domínguez, López; Camacho, Raúl García, Tiago; Simão, Fran; Forlán.
Subs: Diego Costa (“46), Reyes (“60), Mario Suárez (“77)
Goals: 1-0 Javito
Aris’ win definitely wasn’t undeserved, and will have set our heads straight ahead of the Barcelona match on Sunday. Keep an eye out for the preview of that game!