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.