Atlético Madrid required two penalties to open the scoring against Lokomotiv, as if to underline what everybody has been saying this season: the problem with Diego Simeone’s side is that they don’t score goals. The first came in the second minute of the game, when Álvaro Morata played in João Félix, who was floored by a clumsy challenge by Lokomotiv keeper Anton Kochenkov. Félix himself decided he would take it, but then Kieran Trippier requested the ball, and missed. The second came in the 17th minute for a handball. Again Félix tucked the ball under his arm but this time Koke wandered over to inform the young Portuguese that Simeone had ordered Morata take the spot kick. But Félix elected not to listen. But like water off a duck’s back, he stood his ground and stroked the ball home with glacial cool.
This manner of bearing shows that Félix has decided to take his destiny into his own hands, even if it means thumbing his nose at Simeone. He has now managed to be played in his best position, behind the striker. It seems as though Simeone has decided to desist with his intention to convert Félix into a winger but he has not yet forgotten his custom of substituting the 20-year-old before the end of most games. On Wednesday he did so in the 80th minute. There is a hidden side to the relationship between the two, who have only recently come to understand each other, but Félix is prepared defend the status for which he was signed from Benfica for 127 million euros: that of the prodigious superstar, the heir to Antoine Griezmann, and not an unwilling touchline hugger. And against Lokomotiv he backed it up with a goal.
Atlético into Champions League last 16 again
But the big prize was reserved for Atleti, who reached the last 16 of the Champions League the hard way. Not many would say it was that hard after seeing this Lokomotiv side, who went straight from the Metropolitano to their holidays, but those who have watched from Vojvodina, via Timisoara to Qarabag, know only too well how these nights can go for Atlético. Adding to Félix’s goal was Felipe’s effort in the second half, from a short corner, and that sealed the matter. Atlético are in the last 16 draw once again, but without dispelling the issue of their lack of goals. Their convincing style of their play deserved a more emphatic result but Simeone’s side remain goal shy.