Atlético Madrid are off to a great start in the Europa League. The 2009/10 winners beat Scottish giants Celtic 2-0 at the Vicente Calderón.
Gregorio Manzano rested several first team players, but did have a place in his line-up for six of Atlético’s new signings.
Diego and Falcao made their debut in the Vicente Calderón and showed glimpses of what’s to come.
After just three minutes the duo created the opening goal. The former delivered a corner, which was headed in by Falcao.
The Colombian striker finished topscorer of last year’s edition of the Europa League with 17 goals, and opened his account for Atleti with his first official goal for the club.
Diego was given a free role behind the striker and was very active on Thursday night. It took him only 25 seconds to take his first shot of the match and he had multiple tries during the first half, but his attempts were off target or saved by goalkeeper Forster.
Although Atleti dominated from the first minute on, there was a big scare in the 7th minute when Hooper appeared all alone before Courtois. The Rojiblanco defence had done little to stop Celtic’s counterattack, but fortunately the young goalkeeper saved the 1-on-1 situation.
For all their possession, Atleti created few opportunities in the first half, with most shots coming from outside the box.
Immediately after the break the first chance was for South Korean midfielder Ki, but his long range effort was tipped over the bar by Courtois.
In the 49th minute Diego experienced a déjà vu, when he was pushed from behind inside the penalty area. Like against Valencia, his penalty claim was ignored as the referee waved play on.
After an hour of play Atleti seemed to lose momentum and Celtic started to crawl out of their shell, looking for the equaliser. A freekick by Mulgrew was curled just wide.
Just when the team needed it most, they struck a second time to end Celtic’s hopes of getting a result. Diego was at the end of a lovely move by Antonio López and Arda Turan, and calmly slotted the ball into the far corner.
Some minutes later Arda Turan almost got his first Atlético goal too, but Forster got a hand to the Turk’s shot and the ball smashed against the crossbar.
Shots by Ledley and Kayal at the other end went off target.
After Diego received a standing ovation as he was subbed off, Atleti created two more opportunities. Reyes’ deflected freekick went just wide and a shot by Tiago from the ensuing corner was saved by Celtic’s goalkeeper.
In the added time José Antonio Reyes handed Arda the chance to complete a hat-trick of goals by three summer signings, but his attempted chip didn’t beat Forster as the match finished 2-0.
The other game from Group I of the Europa League between Udinese and Rennes ended 2-1 in favour of the Italians. Next up for Atleti is a trip to France on the 29th of September.
Line-up: Courtois; Perea, Miranda, Godín, López; Koke (“57 Reyes), Mario, Gabi (“70 Adrián); Diego (“84 Tiago), Falcao and Arda.
Goals: 1-0 Falcao (“3); 2-0 Diego (“68)