Atlético Madrid were in friendly action on Friday night, coming from behind to win 3-2 against Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad in Jeddah.
Juanfran’s opener was cancelled out by a quickfire double by the home side just before half-time, before second half goals from Torres and Giménez sealed the victory.
Al-Ittihad were hosting Atlético in celebration of their 90th anniversary next week, with 62,000 fans turning up to watch an entertaining match in Saudi Arabia.
The rojiblancos – who earned a handsome fee for their appearance – sent out a strong line-up, and took the lead midway through the first half through Juanfran’s clever finish.
Simeone opted to play the 31 year-old in midfield as he did in our last match against Guijuelo, and he vindicated the decision with another goal, deftly backheeling the ball home from Gabi’s ball over the top.
At that point, Atleti looked comfortable and should’ve doubled their lead when Griezmann was denied by the goalkeeper, but they went into half-time 2-1 behind after a two minute salvo from the Saudi side.
With the crowd roaring them on, Al-Ittihad took advantage of some slack defending first to equalise through Kahraba and then go in front via Akaichi, both of whom given tap-ins as the visitors failed to clear from crosses.
All of a sudden alarm bells were ringing as some of our recent problems reared their ugly head, as Cholo opted to ring the changes for the second half.
On came Fernando Torres, Ángel Correa and Yannick Carrasco among others, who along with José Giménez in midfield helped change the game and swing the result back in Atleti’s favour.
Torres equalised from the penalty spot just past the hour mark after great work from Giménez, who charged forward from midfield and drew a handball from a defender after good skill inside the area.
The Uruguayan then headed home the winning goal ten minutes later, rising highest to meet Correa’s free-kick in ram-busting style. Perhaps the idea of him in a box-to-box could actually work?
With just four days to go until the new year curtain raiser away at Las Palmas some 5,500 miles away, Atleti managed to see out the game without incident, avoiding any additions to their growing injury list.
Whilst concerns over our defensive frailties will be raised after the two soft goals conceded, a win should provide a boost and even more importantly (and incredulously), we scored both from a penalty AND a direct set piece.
The team will now return to Madrid and begin preparations for the new year, with a busy month of Copa del Rey and La Liga action ahead.
Can we draw too much from this performance? Giménez in midfield – yes or no?