For the first time since the celebrated double of 1996, Atlético Madrid entered the second half of a La Liga season in first place. Compostela (!) and Espanyol trailed Atleti in La Liga all those years ago; this time around, the more-formidable duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid occupy the spots below los colchoneros. Real won earlier Sunday, and Barcelona would win later Sunday, so Simeone's men needed to be ready for their visit to the Canary Islands.
Las Palmas awaited them at Estadio Gran Canaria. Threatened by relegation, Las Palmas had changed managers in between meetings with Atlético, replacing the popular Paco Herrera with former Atleti midfielder Quique Setién. They also knew they had acquitted themselves well at the Calderón in August, when they could have escaped with a goalless draw if not for Antoine Griezmann.
Las Palmas would fall victim to the dazzling Frenchman once again Sunday - but Setién's team came out gunning initially. Jan Oblak was forced into two super saves in the first 15 minutes, the best of which came on an attempt by left-back Dani Castellano (who played a terrific game). Atlético withstood the early pressure, broke with pace and broke open the scoreless deadlock when Juanfran crossed for an onrushing Filipe Luís, who scored his first Atleti goal since 2013. It was certainly an unexpected treat to see the Brazilian net a goal - especially when he looked as if he'd been doing it for years.
However, the rest of the first half was far from smooth sailing for the visitors. Las Palmas worked hard and tried to create dangerous opportunities. An equalizer before halftime would have distinctly changed the tenor of the game, and although Atlético were decent value for the 1-0 lead, they knew the three points would not come easy.
Slowly, Atleti regained control in the second half. Griezmann was sent clean through by Vietto early in the half, but Javi Varas made a tremendous stop to keep the game within reach. Five minutes after the hour, midfielder Roque Mesa fired a half-volley into the side netting - even the match commentators thought the score was level at 1-1. But seconds later, Atleti broke forward and Koke played Griezmann through, and this time the Frenchman made no mistake. Griezmann slotted home with his left foot to push the lead to 2-0, and he eventually made it 3-0 on essentially the same attacking move.
- Atlético's splendid away form continued Sunday. Los colchoneros notched an eighth away win of the season; no other side has more than five. In 11 games away from the Calderón, Atleti have run up a +15 goal difference and conceded only three goals. Three. In eleven games.
- Per @infoatleti, the previous five games in which Filipe scored all ended 2-0 or better. This one ended 3-0. Streak remains intact.
- Up next: another trip to Balaídos, this time in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Atlético will match wits against Celta Vigo in the first leg of the quarterfinal on Wednesday. Expect some rotation ahead of next Sunday's fixture against Sevilla.