Nico Gaitán has had to wait for his Atlético debut, and after missing the tour of Australia, he took the chance with both hands against Crotone on Saturday night.
Having cancelled their original friendly against Galatasaray due to safety fears, Cholo’s men took on the Italian side and were 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Gaitán and Diogo Jota.
The game started slowly, and although Atleti took control from the start they were struggling to break down the home side in the Stadio Ezio Scida.
Thomas saw a shot fly just wide and Saúl and Santos Borré also had half chances, but there was little else to speak of in a first half that could best be summed up as your typical pre-season friendly match.
However, Simeone ringed the changes during the break and introduced some attacking flair in Gaitán and Carrasco, who would go on to combine for the opening goal just before the hour mark.
After picking up the ball in his own half, the Belgian charged forward and shaped to shoot, but instead played in Nico Gaitán to finish and claim a debut goal to put the rojiblancos into the ascendancy.
With Koke, Augusto, Juanfran and Lucas also on, chances became more and more frequent and Atleti began opening up last season’s Serie B runners up with more ease.
Juanfran should’ve scored after being played in by the excellent Gaitán, and Torres was denied by Crotone ‘keeper Cordaz after a delightful outside of the boot ball from Saúl to split the defence.
The second goal finally arrived with more or less the last kick of the match, another substitute and new signing Diogo Jota getting in on the act as he pounced on a sloppy back pass and slotted home.
It was a cool finish from the 18 year-old who did well to keep his calm, but it will be our other import from Portugal – Gaitán – who takes the headlines.
His arrival has been somewhat overshadowed by our search for a striker, but the former Benfica man looked at home in the Atleti line-up, providing threat out wide and a link between midfield and attack.
The goal was just the cherry on top of a man of the match performance, with he and Carrasco both showing their class with a number of majestic pieces of skill and finesse.
Next up is the Trofeo Carranza in a week’s time, where we will finish pre-season with friendlies against hosts Cádiz and either Málaga or the Nigerian All-Stars.
Did you watch the match? How do we fit Griezmann, Gaitán, Gameiro and Carrasco into one XI?