Atlético Madrid made a big step towards the Copa del Rey semi-finals on Thursday night, beating Eibar 3-0 at home thanks to goals from Antoine Griezmann, Ángel Correa and Kevin Gameiro.
The rojiblancos made a positive statement with one of their best attacking performances of the season, and will travel to Ipurúa next week with just the formalities to complete after a solid win and clean sheet.
Despite winning their third league match in a row against Betis on Saturday, there were some critics of Cholo’s men and their safety first approach to getting the three points.
This was a much different display though, with the front four of Griezmann, Correa, Gaitán and Carrasco linking up well and looking dangerous from from the start.
Atlético started brightly, Simeone releasing the shackles on the team which made for a good spectacle against an expansive Eibar side. Gaitán was particularly involved both in defence and attack, picking up from where he left off at the weekend.
The hosts thought they had taken the lead through an unlikely source, but Stefan Savic was denied by a late flag when he tapped home a flick on at the back post.
Replays showed that the decision was correct, but Atleti weren’t to be denied and went in front in similar fashion shortly after, Griezmann heading into an empty net after Eibar ‘keeper Yoel’s mistake.
It was the Frenchman’s 13th goal of the season and third in successive Copa del Rey matches, and was met by jubilant celebrations from Simeone that demonstrated just how clearly he is taking the competition.
At the other end, Eibar threatened a couple of times on the break and almost levelled when Capa’s cross fizzed across the box, but Giménez and Savic stood strong at the back.
With the second leg to come at Ipurúa next week, Atleti went for the second goal and got their reward, Ángel Correa tapping home on the hour mark after good work from Yannick Carrasco.
The Belgian, starting his first match of 2017 after an Achilles injury, sprung the offside trap and went to look for goal himself, but inadvertently laid the ball on for his teammate after being crowded out by defenders.
Correa’s goal was not enough to keep him on the pitch for much longer, but replacement Kevin Gameiro was soon amongst the action to score for the first time in just under two months.
It was another set piece that brought about the goal, Giménez rising highest to meet Koke’s corner and Gameiro eventually heading home from close range after Griezmann nodded it across.
With twenty minutes to play the win was in the bag, but Cholo wanted to make sure of the clean sheet and opted to throw on the experience of Gabi and Godín to sure up the defence.
Eibar continued to come forward and very nearly got their valuable away goal through substitute Imanol Sarriegi, but after a deflection fell into his path he couldn’t quite steer the ball home.
3-0 it ended, a result and performance that will have sent the home fans happy, despite Frente Atlético’s continue protests against the club’s new badge.
Whilst qualification isn’t sure just yet, Atleti should be able to rest players for the second leg at Ipurúa next week. They are in the Basque Country before then though, with a trip to Athletic on Sunday afternoon.
Player ratings: Moyà 6, Juanfran 6, Giménez 7, Savic 7, Filipe 7, Koke 7, Saúl 6, Gaitán 7 (MOTM), Carrasco 7, Griezmann 7, Correa 7. Subs: Gameiro 7, Gabi 6, Godín 6.