Atlético still believe in the title
Los Rojiblancos comprehensively saw off Real Sociedad as a Diego Reyes own goal was followed by a Saúl volley and an Antoine Griezmann penalty.
Atlético Madrid carried the derby party on from the Bernabéu to the Calderón on Tuesday night, as they claimed a comfortable 3-0 victory over Real Sociedad.
By the eighth minute, La Real were already a goal down, but it was no surprise. If the truth be told, they'd already taken a giant stride towards defeat before they left the tunnel - as early as the moment Eusebio Sacristán handed in his team sheet. Atlético are tired after a heavy ten days, you say? No problem: have a nice, relaxing night and off you trot for a well-deserved rest.
La Real's coach turned up at the Calderón with a hankering for an evening of experimentation. Estebán Granero has hardly played for two months? In from the start. Diego Reyes usually plays at centre-back? I'm sticking you at the heart of midfield, son; Alberto de la Bella'll slot in at central defence. And I could go on... Unbelievable stuff. Atlético took them apart with the minimum of fuss.
But not without a further helping hand from their visitors: having almost put through their own net through Mikel González in the fourth minute, the txuri-urdin took a second bite at the cherry - and this time succeeded, Reyes turning in Koke's low cross from the right.
The first half proved an Atlético whirlwind, as the hosts continually sought out keeper Gerónimo Rulli's goalmouth; home custodian Jan Oblak, meanwhile, might as well have been a hologram. All that they failed to do was trouble the scorers further, and it was not for the want of chances.
Before their opener, Saúl Ñiguez had connected with a powerful effort with barely two minutes on the clock, while there were also opportunities after Reyes' own goal for Antoine Griezmann (twice), Luciano Vietto and even defender Diego Godín, whose pair of attempts flew off target.
And if La Real came out after the break fired up and determined to turn the encounter around, they were a little too sluggish in showing it. Atlético are struggling to find the net of their own accord, you say? No problem. With the second half a matter of seconds old, the Sociedad defence gifted possession to Griezmann (you know, just for old times' sake), Vietto crossed and Saúl fired in with a flying volley.
It's Saúl's seventh goal of the season. An all-round, goal-scoring midfielder who is growing with every passing game. Vicente del Bosque take note.
Ten minutes into the period, Atleti boss Diego Simeone's thoughts began to turn to Sunday's trip to Valencia, with 'El Cholo' bringing off Godín (one yellow away from a suspension) and, soon afterwards, Griezmann (in the same boat as the Uruguayan).
However, Griezmann still had time to get himself on the scoresheet from the spot. Atleti have only been awarded one penalty all season and contrived to miss it, you say? Don't you worry. De la Bella brought down his former club colleague, who duly beat Rulli from 12 yards.
The celebrations at the Calderón appeared to wake Eusebio from his slumbers, and the away boss brought some order to his side, having also introduced instrumental figure Carlos Vela shortly before the penalty. With the Mexican on the field for a matter of minutes, the Basques had already hit the woodwork. But Eusebio had handed Simeone the advantage for the first hour, and it was too little, too late.
Atlético have 61 points and are just three off the haul of their championship-winning team of two years ago at the same stage. The night ended on a double negative note, though. One arrived courtesy of the assistant referee, who deemed Ángel Correa offside - and he wasn't - when the forward had the ball in the net. The other came through Augusto Fernández, who marred a superb display with a wild challenge on the recently introduced Eneko Capilla, a tackle that saw the 20-year-old limp off the pitch. A real shame.
It was a blot on the copybook of an evening that, up to then, could only have been described in one way: one of those perfect nights.
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