Atlético Madrid knew they faced a tough test when they travelled to Istanbul for the opening game of this season’s Champions League group.
Los Colchoneros were determined to return to Madrid with a much better result than the one obtained in last year’s opening fixture against Olympiakos.
Footballing traditions suggest that on hostile away matches, the visitors should aim to silence the crowd and control the pace of the game for the initial 15 to 20 minutes.
Diego Simeone did not allow the first blow to come from the heated atmosphere of the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, but instead struck first to stun the opposition (and some Atleti fans) by announcing an incredibly offensive line-up.
A front three consisting of the in-form scorer Antoine Griezmann and new signings Vietto and Jackson Martínez proved too much for the Turkish side, who were already 2-0 down before they had time to adjust. The gamble had paid off.
“We played really well in the first half. We surprised them with Jackson, Vietto and Griezmann,” Simeone concluded in his post-match press conference.
If any research had been done by Galatasaray Manager Hamza Hamzaoglu, he must have realized that overcoming a 2-0 deficit against this Atletico Madrid back four would be an outstanding achievement.
It was no surprise to witness a clean sheet and yet another great performance from the Uruguayan centre back pairing of Giménez and Godín, who let only a couple of tame long range efforts disturb Jan Oblak’s evening watching the game.
“We know the importance of a first victory in the group stage,” Antoine Griezmann stated after the game.
The French international has started the season in great form and his two goals on Tuesday evening were enough to claim man-of-the-match honours.
The win puts the Rojiblancos in a great position ahead of the next group fixture against Portuguese champions Benfica at the Calderón.
“As long as the team wins, I will be happy,” declared new-signing Jackson after a game which saw him lost at times and slightly off of the pace. The Colombian is still adapting to a new system and set of teammates.
Some criticism has already been directed at him, perhaps due to his hefty price tag, or even beause of the performances of fellow strikers Griezmann and Torres.
However, those quick to condem the three time Primeira Liga top scorer could do well to remember the struggles of today’s man-of-the-match just a year ago.
“The early minutes were very good. We scored so we could play with more calmness for the rest of the game,” Simeone said after the game.
“We nearly threw it away at the end [of the first half], because we were poor in our work-rate at that time. In the second half, we played according to the score and we controlled the game well.”
The Argentinian seemed satisfied with the team, defining the performance as “exceptional” in a win that makes it three victories in four games so far this season.
Always true to his philosophy, Simeone decided to keep the focus on the upcoming match instead of discussing comments surrounding the team’s performance against treble winners Barcelona last weekend.
“Criticism? I did not hear a thing, we know its part of the game. Now we start thinking about Eibar.”