Copa del Rey: Las Palmas 0 – 2 Atlético

Red and whites start the new year with solid win in the Copa del Rey

Koke and teammates celebrate Atleti's opening goal

Koke and teammates celebrate Atleti's opening goal

In their first match of the new year, Atlético Madrid took a big step towards the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey on Tuesday night with a 2-0 win away at Las Palmas.

Goals from Koke and Antoine Griezmann – his first in ten domestic matches – sealed the result, giving the rojiblancos a commanding lead to take back to the Vicente Calderón next week.

Diego Simeone opted to field a strong line-up in Gran Canaria, with Griezmann and Gameiro up front and Juanfran again in midfield. Sime Vrsaljko continued at right-back.

Whilst Las Palmas enjoyed a lot of possession, Atleti managed the game well and looked to have the home side at arms length, soaking up the pressure and hitting on the counter attack.

Jonathan Viera had the game’s first effort, testing Moyá from a free-kick, and at the other end Koke and Griezmann both came close with efforts from long range.

Koke it was who opened the deadlock midway through the first half, firing passed Raúl Lizoain on the half-volley after Las Palmas failed to clear Sime Vrsaljko’s cross.

It was the 24 year-old’s first ever goal in the Copa del Rey, even though some claimed that Gameiro had the last touch (replays seemed to prove otherwise).

The closest the hosts would get to scoring before half-time was through stand-in striker Asdrúbal, but he couldn’t convert when a cross-shot came his way towards the 40 minute mark.

Shortly after the break, Atleti sentenced the game with a second goal, relief for Antoine Griezmann as he headed home his first goal since November 23rd, and first in ten domestic matches.

Once again the impressive Vrsaljko was involved, he crossed for Gameiro to nod back for his compatriot Griezmann to finish with a diving header from inside the six-yard box.

From then on, the visitors were quite happy to sit back and protect their two-goal lead, safe in the knowledge that the away goal rule will make a comeback difficult for Las Palmas next week.

However, the home side were persistent in their bid to reduce the arrears, and Miguel Ángel Moyá had to be on his mark to keep them out on a number of occasions.

Vicente Gómez came closest with a left-footed attempt, and Jonathan Viera had a handful of attempts stopped from the Atleti ‘keeper.

On the break, Cholo‘s men almost helped themselves to a third after a brilliant team move presented Griezmann with a chance, but Lizoain saved before Correa’s follow up hit the top of the crossbar.

Gameiro was also guilty of spurning a golden opportunity before being substituted, but missed the target when put through on goal. Like Griezmann, a goal would do the world of confident to him right now.

Despite the missed chances, it ended 2-0 and was a win that Atleti deserved, having been assured and focused from start to finish. Hopefully now we’ll be able to rest some players for the second leg.

Before that though, it’s back to La Liga action with a tough trip to face Eibar on Saturday afternoon. They were 3-0 winners at Osasuna earlier on in the evening.

Player ratings: Moyá 7, Vrsaljko 8 (MOTM), Godín 7, Savic 7, Filipe 6, Juanfran 7, Gabi 6, Koke 7, Saúl 6, Griezmann 7, Gameiro 6. Subs: Correa 6, Giménez 6, Gaitán N/A.

  • Kris

    Fially Vrsaljko with the MOTM. He’s my favorite player at the moment.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    It says fucking too much about a player when he FORCES Simeone to trust him.

    But let’s wait to see if this trust will continue for a good spell of games, because if Juanfran as a winger didn’t work in bigger games (I don’t think it will), Simeoe will have two choices:
    a hard one (very hard for a person like him): bench Juanfran.
    and an easy one: send Vrsaljko back to the bench.

  • lol

  • Kris

    If recent matches are any indication, Vrsaljko isn’t going back to the bench even if Simeone is the manager. Vrsaljko has totally earned his spot there and seems all around a much better player. He covers his side really well and is a great physical presence as well. Simeone likes that. If Vrsaljko starts against Eibar, he’s probably going to stay there until he gets injured, at least for La Liga. Don’t know about Champions League as he might still prefer the “experience”, like starting Torres over Gameiro because of his experience. But yeah, let’s wait and see, meanwhile I am loving Vrsaljko on the right.

  • ssyoung

    We are in big trouble. Who has given Simeone the stupid idea of juanfran starting as a winger? What has saul done to deserve a start? Gimenez gets subbed in for a striker while saul plays the whole 90 min? Simeone is doing stupid things which will surely cost us the top 4 this season.

  • Koke

    Cerci, Oliver, Jimenez, Gaitan, Correa, Thomas, Diego Ribas… how many attacking players does Simeone plan to buy, many of them very talented, and leave them on the bench for the entire season more or less? What’s the point? Gaitan deserves more time as does Correa.

    Happy for Vrsaljko. With him we seem to be set for the RB for years to come, which is good because world class full backs are extremely coveted and hard to come by (even Barca is struggling to find one.) Juanfran has always been one of my favorite players, but unlike Simeone I don’t think the players I like are the ones that should play. Vrsaljko is playing better and should play. And in terms of crossing, I don’t think there are many better crossers out there right now. Don’t believe me, just watch some of his videos from his old club.

    I guess Carrasco was injured today, but I really really hope we don’t see Juanfran as a winger again. There’s no way he’s more effective than Gaitan/Carrasco/Correa.

  • Koke

    Pretty much every player that plays now has forced Simeone to trust them, which is such a shame. Gimenez, Savic, Lucas, Oblak, Griezmann, Saul, Carrasco – all of these players wasted away on the bench until Simeone was literally forced to play them because even the most stubborn person couldn’t overlook their good performances. Yes, even Oblak, Gimenez, and Balon Dor contender Griezmann. What would have happened if Moya had never gotten injured that first time? Or Griezmann hadn’t scored that Athletic hat trick? Scary to think about.

    I think Oliver and some others have failed here because they never had the “luck” to make an impression in their limited time. Thankfully Vrsaljko took his chances well (but if it weren’t for the Copa, he might still be wasted on the bench for the foreseeable future.) I hope we see more players given chances to prove themselves.

  • ssyoung

    Simeone is too stubborn to bench juanfran, a senior player, considering he doesnt bench saul or koke even in the copa. This new stupid idea of Simeone means that now even correa alongside gaitan will be sacrificed to make space for juanfran.

    I have never seen such a coach who destroys the careers of the most creative players to make way for the trusted ones, that is what he has been doing for the past 2 years. Last season, he was stagnating us, but this season, he is straight up taking us down.

  • Hannu

    If he starts to use Koke-Saul-Gabi-Juanfran midfield in the end Gaitan, Correa and Carrasco will and/or should leave. Then we are with aging Gabi and Juanfran with no creative players and then he leaves himself and what kind of testimony is that? Ofcourse you can always buy new players (if you dont have transfer ban!) but its hard to find that kind of talents that we have now.

  • AndersAT

    There is a lot of negative vibes after a 0 – 2 win on a difficult away ground (las Palmas had not lost there this season), and we could have gotten a goal or two more.

    I understand the frustration, but Juanfran is actually a winger and had scored the two matches he played in that position. Perhaps Gaitan or Correa just isn’t better that Juanfran on the right wing. I believe Simeone picks the players who perform the best during training. We will play a lot of matches these coming months, and I believe all players that deserve playing time will get playing time.


    i don’t understand this insist on saul the guy is fucking sucks but he continue play in every single game while guys like Correa Thomas Gaitan they don’t have any chance

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I hate this kind of arguments that some people have been using here, while they know very well that we are not talking about one game, one week, one month or even one year, we are talking about 3 years of lack of creativity, lack of goals, depending on only 14 or 15 players the whole season until they are worn out.
    We are talking about benching Oblak for 6 months because of one game, benching Grizi for 6 months for no reason at all, and the same happened for many other great players.
    We are talking about the 63 goals in La Liga last season, lowest number under Simeone despite having his best squad.
    We are talking about that no striker have succeeded after Diego Costa, despite that we had some good players who scored many goals before they joined us and after they left.
    We are talking about losing a lot of money on players like Siqueira & Cerci. Didn’t use them, and didn’t sell them when he had the chance (in the case of Siqueira), then loaned him out for a million or two for the remaining year and a half of his contract. I even consider Toby a big loss financially, he could have been sold for a lot more if Simeone gave him a fair chance, or better yet, we could have kept him.

    We are talking about too many things, and we will not get deluded by the shootout against PSV or the penalty that Muller missed, or the many 1-0 wins in La Liga last season, home and away, with some of them coming at the last minutes of the game against the likes of Gijon and Levante. We weren’t so lucky this season and we couldn’t get that 1-0 against Alaves, Leganes or Espanyol, and if we did, we would have been 3rd on the table with the same points as Barca, and many problems would have been masked again and the defeats against Sevilla and R.Sociedad and the thrashings against Real Madrid and Villarreal would have been forgotten.
    After Costa we can not score goals, we don’t know how, we have no system or plan, we were depending on one brilliant player, Griezmann, and when he stopped scoring lately we dropped to 6th. Even Barca do not depend that way on Missi nor Madrid on Cristiano.

    So, please my friend, don’t tell us about the negative vibes and the 2-0 win, which could have been 5-0 if Gaitan and Correa started.

    If you really believe that Juanfran, who will turn 32 next Monday and who didn’t play on the wing since 2011 is a better winger than Gaitan then the latter should retire immediately and seek a career in coaching or underwear modeling.
    Just because Simeone think he is better doesn’t mean it’s true, he is the coach and he was a big international player, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t get somethings wrong, he does, a lot.

    We always play a lot of matches but yet many players don’t get enough chances, so what makes you think that this will change this season ?!
    Gaitan only got 15 minutes in the cup against Las Palams, so how many minutes do you think he will get if we drawn Barca or Madrid or Sevilla in the quarter final (if Las Palmas didn’t surprise us in the second leg)?!
    I love your optimism and your belief in Simeone though.

    And Finally, about your training theory, that Simeone picks the players who perform the best during training, I really don’t believe that this is the way he picks players, but if it is, then we would expect that Grizi didn’t perform very well before his hat-trick at San Mames, which means it’s a bad and stupid system and he should judge players by their performance in official games, in a fair number of them.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    Couldn’t have said it better

  • ssyoung

    yeah, this new idea of playing juanfran is the worst thing that could happen to us. It means correa and gaitan are doomed already. Another scary thing would be saul starting over carrasco which has a very real chance of happening considering Simeone benched carrasco against villareal.

  • AndersAT

    Yeah i do get your point. You keep repeating it. I know you want to play more attacking football and I think it is fine, and I agree on a lot of points, I just don’t think there is a reason to keep on saying the same things over and over again, especially when we are improving.

    With Simeone I think you should get used to a more defensive approach. With focus on the defensive first and goals second. You can agree or disagree, but that is how it will be. I don’t mind us playing with 3 CMs Koke, Saul and Gabi. And I think Saul and Koke should play as much as they can because they are the future, and will be great there together (I think). But I agree that Gabi should rotate more with Thomas and Gaitan (and hopefully Oliver). Furthermore I think Correa is a forward and should rotate with Gameiro, but the latter still needs games to get the flow of goals going.

    You have a point about us possibly winning 0-5 with Gaitan and Correa. But we might as well have lost because 3-3 because of the lack of defensive stability. You can’t possibly know what would have happened.

    Regarding players on the bench you can also turn the argument around and say that the players who had 1/2 a year on the bench to get used to the team and the league is the players that perform well (Griezman, oblak, Koke, Saul, Diego Costa, Carrasco, Gimenez, Sime) while players that were thrown right into it with an important starting position failed (Jackson, Gameiro, Vietto and Mandzucic although the later was ok, and scored a decent amount of goals).

    I agree with the financial strategy, which could be better. But I think that all teams have players they lose money on, perhaps except Porto, who run an incredible tight ship.

  • Hannu

    Yes, Correa should rotate with Gameiro and Griezmann and be used as forward. I dont have problem with 3 CMs and I agree that both Koke and Saul should play but if fourth midfielder is Juanfran and Carrasco and Gaitan on the bench that will be just disgrace. If Simeone wont play Koke as CM then there is Saul and Gabi and Carrasco wont play right side and Simeone has played Koke left side it looks like there wont be space for our best player but I hope this doesnt happen. Everybody is talking about that flow of goals that is coming from Gameiro but what if that just wont happen..

  • David

    I agree with you Anders- far too much negativity after a 2-0 win. The defensive stability has been lacking when we’ve played with an attacking lineup. It’s easy to comment using revisionist history or as a Monday morning quarterback but as you mentioned, we just don’t know.

    We can’t always expect Simeone to try something new when (to his credit he has) when his previous results have gotten us the following- liga, copa, Europa league, super copa and 2 champions league final appearances- go ahead and correct me if I have forgotten something….

    All I’m saying- while I agree it is important to criticize as we all are fans and love the club, I think the criticism of Simeone has been far too harsh.

  • Kris

    I hear you, but why buy those attacking players then?

  • Hannu

    And there is no reason to bring Oliver back either.

  • AndersAT

    I completely agree. I think Correa or Vietto will take the place of griezmann when he moves on (it will hurt, but it will probably happen). And I think Gaitan will get the chance sometime, if not I totally agree it is a ridiculous buy. And Gameiro have been used, the fact he doesn’t perform that well couldn’t really be foreseen, although he never seemed the right type.

    But I agree we buy offensive players that obviously doesn’t fit our style that well, and it is exactly this inconsistency that annoyes me.

  • AndersAT

    I think it is a distinct possibility that Gameiro doesn’t really start scoring, and I think it is time that Correa or Gaitan gets the pick over him

    And I agree that Juanfran is probably not the best choice on the right wing.

  • Koke

    Yes, I understand why someone would think that we are getting too negative after a victory. But see Ahmad’s comment. It’s a pattern that is years long, not a single 90 minute game.

    One might say that we got too ‘spoiled’ after several good seasons, but I think the opposite is true. I think many fans are not demanding enough from this team, costing many millions and boasting some of the very best players in the world. Player for player, we are better than just about every squad in the world, bar the ‘big 3’ perhaps, but you wouldn’t know it from the way we play. How can a team with Griezmann, Carrasco, Gameiro, Koke, Gaitan, Correa, etc struggle to score goals? Or keep possession? Or create chances? Watch the likes of Liverpool, Villareal, Sociedad, Las Palmas, even Real Betis play great football with far inferior players. Something is wrong.

    Another point a lot of people make is that if we play more attacking, we will be worse defensively.

    1) That’s not necessarily true – unless we’re parking the bus, we will have moments in the game where we’re attacking and moments when we’re defending. What we do in the attacking moments has nothing to do with how we perform defensively. Just because we’re rock-solid when pegged back, doesn’t mean we have to be completely clueless when we’re pegging the opponent back.
    2) Right this moment, we’re not even good at defense anymore, so what do we have to lose anyway?
    3) I’d rather win games 3-1 than 1-0. 1-0 is luck, a lot of the time. We win by scoring more goals than the opponent, so a clean sheet means nothing if we can’t score a goal.
    4) With the likes of Filipe, Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Lucas, and Savic, we will never be awful defensively no matter how attacking we play. These are some of the best defenders in the world.

  • AndersAT

    By the way. Moya is such a great reserve keeper. That was a great buy. He slots in perfectly, and plays with such calmness and security.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Please explain to me how would starting with Gaitan on the wing instead of Juanfran and with Correa instead of Saul, and with Koke in the middle would have affected our defensive stability.
    How could we concede 3 goals from Las Palmas with Godin, Savic, Filipe & Vrsaljko at the back, and with Gabi & Koke in the middle?!
    And what defensive stability against Las Plamas you are talking about?! this is only the 3rd game for Juanfran as a winger under Simeone, and the 10th or so for Saul in the center, who is definitely not Tiago or Augusto or even Koke defensively.
    As a matter of fact, I believe my line up would have given us more defensive stability.

    And would you also tell me what did Oblak or Gimenez learn from setting long time on the bench?! what can the bench teach a player (other than patience)?!
    And you can not put Koke, Saul or Costa in that category, they didn’t sit on the bench for long time, Koke was a regular in Simeone’s first full season, he played 33 La Liga games in 2012/13, 29 as a starter, when he was only 20 year-old.
    Costa and Saul also played a lot when they returned from heir loans at Rayo, 31 La Liga games for Costa and 24 La Liga games for Saul, despite the tough competition they had, from Falcao, Adrian & Raul for Costa, and from Koke, Arda, Tiago and also Raul for Saul.
    Those three did NOT set half a year on the bench.
    Those three did NOT cost 100 million, Koke and Saul are homegrown, while Costa cost us only 3 million.

    And finally, explain to me how playing Oblak against Getafe, Rayo, Levante, Eibar and Almeria would have been considered “throwing him right into it” while keeping him on the bench with no game rhythm and with no confidence then bringing him on at a second leg of a UCL knockout game is not “throwing him right into it”?!!

    When you say stuff like those, especially false ones like claiming that Koke & Costa were benched as long as Oblak & Gimenez, I can’t help but think that you care about Simeone more than you care about Atleti.

  • AndersAT

    – because Gaitan and Correa is not as good defensively as Saul and Juanfran. And Saul has always played a more central role even when he was on the left side.

    – I don’t know we would have conceded 3 goals (or think). Like you don’t know that we wouldn’t have.

    – I think you can learn a lot from training and being a substitute, and I think it is better for the team that new players are transitioned slowly into the team.

    – in this system Gaitan can mostly rotate with Carrasco (because Simeone wants to play with 3 CM). That makes the competition tough for him. Correa gets a fair amount of games (he is on 14 now) and will by the end of the season easily reach 30.

    – when Oblak came in he had trained with the team for half a year, so I don’t think that it was throwing him into it, compared to starting him from the first game.

    i don’t. I just have a different set of opinions than you. And it seems like you care more about specific players than the team.

  • Los Indianos fans ??

    I see Cholo dropping Vrsjalko in bigger games haha. Juanfran is one of the pillers on cholo tactics.