A goal from Koke, another from Griezmann gives a 2-0 win and optimism for the Lisbon return. That is a simple summary of last night's clash at the Wanda Metropolitan, which was more akin to a game of chess. Something unites these two managers: they both strive for their team not to make errors and likewise look to penalise errors of their opponent. That's the playbook of Simeone and also Jorge Jesús, who is building a great career in Portugal. Unfortunately for him, the game had hardly begun when a slack pass from Coates gifted Koke the opener. Later, it was Mathieu with the slip up, from which Griezmann made it 2-0. Thanks very much. There was also time for Diego Costa to squander the chance for a third, and decisive, goal.
Simeone's Atlético get the job done
It's an element of football, which sometimes works out. An Atlético friend of mine says that Simeone has the world record for good results while playing poorly. I try to console him by saying that I have seen worse Atleti sides that have suffered disastrous results, and that this current team, although not one to make you fall in love, knows how to win. There are many games in which they do not concede and, as prescribed by several manuals, that's exactly where you start. Oblak is a rock, and in every game seems to make that decisive stop that defines the direction of the match. In the Wanda last night he did it again, in the final seconds, and had some added luck that the resulting loose ball was sent into the clouds by Montero. Seeing Oblak so close must have blinded him.
Europa League not just a consolition
But it would be unfair to think that this tie is done and dusted. It would have been much more so had Diego Costa finished his chance. In the battle of defensive reliabilities that was on show in which this game, Atlético were more solid than Sporting. This is not surprising seeing as the Portuguese side's defense included players who have passed through LaLiga in their careers and, keeping it as polite as possible, didn't leave a significant impression. In short, this clash didn't give us much, after what we have witnessed in the preceding days in the Champions League, but Atleti have taken one step (or one stride) closer to their target of winning this cup again, which at this point is much more than a consolation trophy.