Atlético Madrid cruised to victory over a listless Valencia at Estadio Vicente Calderón on Sunday in one of the side’s best Liga Santander performances of the season.
Antoine Griezmann scored inside both the first 10 minutes and the final 10 minutes, while Kévin Gameiro chipped in just after halftime, as Atleti rolled over a Valencia side which had won three of its previous four in LaLiga and made its final trip to the Calderón.
Griezmann opened the scoring after he took up a Koke pass to complete a blazing fast counterattack. Gameiro scored moments after the second half began - helped in part by a deflection off Eliaquim Mangala - and Griezmann applied the icing to the cake with a sliding finish seven minutes from time.
With Diego Godín suspended for yellow card accumulation, Diego Simeone chose to pair Stefan Savić with Lucas Hernández in central defense. José Giménez, himself a yellow away from suspension, was dropped to the bench after a so-so performance at Deportivo La Coruña on Thursday which saw him make an error that led to a goal. Saúl Ñíguez returned to the XI after he served a suspension of his own against Deportivo.
As Fernando Torres looked on from the stands, Atlético started fast. Filipe Luís saw a stinging shot saved by Diego Alves in the opening minutes, and the pace of Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco opened up the Valencia defense. Atleti’s counterattacking strategy paid its first dividends in the 10th minute, when Koke played a perfectly-weighted pass to an in-stride Griezmann. The Frenchman’s super finish - his 10th of 2017 in all competitions - put los colchoneros a goal to the good.
Atlético kept up the pressure against a lackluster Valencia defense, led mainly by a resurgent Filipe Luís at left back. Valencia had more of the ball but failed to get anywhere near Jan Oblak, and the hosts continued to pursue opportunities on the counterattack, with Gameiro coming closest. But Atleti were ahead - if not comfortably so - at the intermission.
Three minutes after the restart, Filipe started another counter, and with yards of space in front of him picked out Gameiro charging toward the box. Gameiro’s shot took a generous deflection off Mangala, fluttered past Alves to double Atlético’s advantage and handed the Frenchman his third double-digit scoring season over four years in Spain.
Atleti then spent the next half hour-plus in search of a third goal. Griezmann was stopped by Alves after Koke sent him clean through, Gameiro was tackled by Mangala close to goal and Griezmann took advantage a misplaced pass to float a shot just past woodwork. Valencia boss Voro brought on Zakkaria Bakkali and Santi Mina to get his attack going, but that only further opened up his defense.
Griezmann exploited this in the 83rd minute. Nico Gaitán and Thomas Partey had come on as substitutes (for Gameiro and Carrasco) and combined to set him up. Gaitán picked out Griezmann and tried to send him through, but the pass was short of its intended target. Thomas intervened, however, and (perhaps accidentally) tapped to Griezmann to slide home his second of the afternoon and Atlético’s third. Gaitán nearly added a fourth in stoppage time, but blazed over following a sensational move from the left-hand side cutting in.
Over the past few months, it’s been all too rare to see Atleti put in a complete 90 minutes in a league game, but the team did so on Sunday. What does it mean? We’ve stopped trying to figure that out. But at any rate, this was a fantastic performance. Antoine Griezmann marked his 100th appearance for Atleti with a brace, while Simeone’s 200th league game ended in a clean sheet - the first in seven games for his team. For now, los colchoneros are back in fourth place, have taken points from nine of the past 10 in LaLiga and face relegation-threatened Granada away next Saturday before returning to the Calderón for the return leg against Bayer Leverkusen.