Atlético Madrid rediscovered their goalscoring groove against Guijuelo on Tuesday night, scoring four times in the first half in a 4-1 win to seal their passage to the Copa del Rey last 16.
Nico Gaitán, Ángel Correa, Juanfran and Fernando Torres were on target against the third tier side, who scored a late consolation goal through Antonio Pino despite playing most of the game with 10 men.
Despite finishing their league campaign for the year on Saturday, nobody was allowed to start their Christmas holiday early as Diego Simeone named a strong XI for Guijuelo’s visit.
Atleti won the first leg 6-0 in Salamanca three weeks ago, but tather than give chances to canteranos, Cholo lined up with four of the back five that kept guard against Las Palmas on Saturday and was clearly taking the match seriously.
The main talking point before the match was the inclusion of Alessio Cerci, who played half an hour off the bench, whereas the likes of Nicolás Gaitán, Fernando Torres and Ángel Correa started in attack.
Gaitán it was who opened the scoring, curling home with his weaker right foot after 17 minutes following a good run from Thomas. Correa then added a second after Gaitán’s header came back off the crossbar.
Shortly after it was three, Correa involved again with a good ball for Juanfran – playing for the first time in almost five years as a winger – to add his name to the scoresheet with a well taken finish.
Atleti were showing no mercy to their Segunda B counterparts, despite coming up against one of their own in goalkeeper Carlos Morales, on loan at Guijuelo from the rojiblanco club.
Things went from bad to worse as Raúl Ruiz was sent off for two yellow cards, meaning they had to play almost an hour of the match a man light.
Fernando Torres then helped himself to a much needed goal, beating Morales to a loose ball to make it 4-0 to Atleti on the stroke of half-time.
After the break, the hosts took their foot off the gas a little and allowed Guijuelo to come back into the match, and with ten minutes to go they got their reward for their endeavour when Antonio Pino headed past Moyá into the top corner.
It was no less than they deserved, and may well have been the goal of the evening. Álvaro’s cross was put into a perfect area, and Pino made no mistake and goes home with a memory that will last a lifetime.
At the other end, fans were willing substitute Cerci to find the net, the Italian given ironic cheers as he took the field in red and white for the first time in over two years.
As it were, the match played out without further incident, with Atleti players able to jet off for the winter break on the back of two wins following an alarming run of poor form earlier in the month.
Whilst we can’t really draw too much from tonight’s win, the team will hopefully be ready to start the new year with a flourish and renewed levels of motivation and confidence, which will be crucial if they are to challenge for trophies this season.
Training will resume on December 28th with our next competitive match the first leg of the Copa del Rey round of 16, the draw for which takes place on Friday.
Before then, Atleti go to Saudi Arabia for a money-spinning friendly against Al-Ittihad on December 30th.
Player ratings: Moyá 6, Vrsaljko 7, Savic 6, Giménez 6, Lucas 7, Juanfran 7, Saúl 6, Thomas 7, Gaitán 7, Correa 7 (MOTM), Torres 6. Subs: Cerci 5, Carrasco N/A, Gameiro N/A