Atletico Madrid entered this game keen to get back to winning ways after a very disappointing 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in La Liga at the weekend. This game opened in a more positive fashion. Atletico came out of the blocks like a scalded cat. Their quick passing and "hunting in packs" pressing had Galatasaray dropping deeper and deeper in fear. The opening twenty five minutes was an exhibition in how to play away from home. Atletico were sensational. They were more than happy to allow Galatasaray to play the ball around their back four and their defensive midfielders, but the second the ball made it into the final third of the pitch Atletico switched their press on like a light and just suffocated Sneijder, Galatasaray’s only real creative outlet in the first half.
The first and second Atletico goals happened within ten minutes of each other with very little events of note in between. The first one arrived on the fifteen minute mark and it was the most typical Atletico goal you could ever hope to see. A ball pumped long by Juanfran in an attempt to hit Jackson was won by the very impressive Denayer for the Turkish side, popped down into the Galatasaray midfield which was hit hard by an advancing Tiago who turned possession over quickly and played a nicely weighted ball out wide to Koke. Cut back to Griezmann on the edge of the boxes who seemed to be in acres of space slotted the ball past a hapless Mulsera. The second goal came from a typically well worked set piece, a short corner played to Koke who pinged a ball to the far post for Godin to knock down to an alarmingly free Griezmann for a tap in. This first half was Atleti at their brilliant best. The second half began two minutes late with Hamza Hamzaoğlu clearly having more than his fair share of choice words to his team after watching such a toothless display. This extra words combined with Yasin Öztekin’s introduction really made Galatasaray more of a force in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half. He was excellent, he took the burden of creativity away from Sneijder and he was direct. Juanfran and Siquera had an easy ride at fullback up until his introduction, but Öztekin caused a lot of problems with his incessant wing changes for the pair. There was a lot more energy and intensity from the Turks overall too which Atleti really struggled to cope with. It seemed an element of complacency had entered Los Colchoneros game whereas Galatasaray had gone to a new level. A recipe for disaster in European competition.
Thankfully, Atleti weathered this storm and the introduction of Gabi on the hour mark for Vietto really tightened the game up and killed what remaining impetus Galatasaray had. The one concern that Atleti fans might have developed while watching this game was the performance of Jackson. He was not good at all, of course he still needs to adapt to Simeone’s very specific requirements from a forward player, but against this relatively meagre opposition he looked very off the pace. I’m by no means writing him off or anything absurd like that, it’s just worth pointing out that the game could have been so much more comfortable had he performed on a similar level to the rest of the team. The partnership with Vietto is certainly one that will thrive when both players settle. Very dynamic and mobile, and despite this game there was still flashes that they have a decent understanding already.
The last half an hour of the game went off without incident and it got Atleti, and indeed El Cholo’s quest for some more European silverware off to the best start possible.