Fernando Torres bagged a brace to end his four month-plus Liga Santander goal drought and carry Atlético Madrid to a 2-0 win over Leganés on Saturday evening.
Torres opened the scoring by bundling home Antoine Griezmann’s missed penalty in the first half, and followed that up with a trademark chip past goalkeeper Iago Herrerín early in the second half. Atlético saw out a comfortable result from there - even as the visitors recorded more shots - and now will focus on Tuesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal second leg at Barcelona.
Torres was one of two changes Diego Simeone made to the XI which lost to Barça at the Vicente Calderón on Wednesday. Nico Gaitán started on the left-hand side of midfield, and Yannick Carrasco joined Šime Vrsaljko on the bench (Juanfran returned to his familiar right back position). Atlético were in control from kick off and won a penalty inside 15 minutes, when new Leganés center back Dimitrios Siovas brought down Torres in the box. Griezmann stepped up to take the penalty, but missed it - his fifth miss in seven tries - as Herrerín palmed away a weak shot while going the wrong way. However, El Niño was in position to chest down the rebound and slot his first league goal since Sept. 17.
Lega tried to respond but could not trouble Miguel Ángel Moyá’s goal. Atleti’s fire died down after the goal, and besides the goal, the two teams were essentially even entering half time.
Simeone made an important change during the intermission, taking off Saúl Ñíguez (who had played well but was on four yellow cards) and bringing on Ángel Correa. Correa’s introduction - as it often does - energized Atlético, and he set up an historic goal in the 51st minute. The Argentine slipped Torres through, and he timed perfectly a classic chip over Herrerín for his 100th league goal, his 114th in all competitions (tying Adelardo for sixth in club history) and Atleti’s 4,500th Liga goal.
Los colchoneros came close to a third in the late stages, and Torres had a chance at a hat trick if Correa had squared to him in the box in stoppage time. Leganés subs Samu García and Darwin Machís had good opportunities to take back a consolation goal, but in the end, Lega’s winless run dragged on to 10 games, while Atleti’s moved to six.
This was a solid win for Atlético and guarantees the team will remain in fourth place for another week. More importantly, Torres got off the schneid; one may be tempted to question if this is the start of another revival. But gaze shifts now to Tuesday at Camp Nou and what may be the end of Atleti’s Copa del Rey adventure.
(One other milestone from Saturday: Koke played his 300th game for Atlético.)