In the run-up to this match, there was a lot of discussion about potential squad rotation, but on match day, the only noticeable absentee was Diego Godín, who was replaced by Lucas Hernandez. Though the squad has been quite thin on occasion this season, Atleti have done a decent job with limiting minutes played, though on occasion Simeone will opt to avoid using his third substitution.
Gathering some confidence before the crucial first leg of the Champions League semi-final was crucial for Atlético after a disappointing match against Villarreal, where they probably should have got at least a point. Just two minutes into the match, nerves were settled when Kevin Gameiro scored his first since returning from injury. Atleti would only go on to build momentum, as they looked to exploit Las Palmas’ defense on the counter, and were helped by Mauricio Lemos starting from the bench, which weakened the Canary Island club.
About 15 minutes after the first goal, Saúl Ñíguez headed home from a corner with a spectacularly placed header to double Atleti’s lead. Moments later, Kevin Gameiro was played through on the counter wonderfully by Nico Gaitan, and the Frenchman used his pace and strength to hold off the defender and finish well. Gameiro has failed to impress entirely this season, but to net twice in a match will do him a world of good, heading into crucial matches where he may be needed, either from the start or off the bench.
At this point, Las Palmas looked very much like a side not in fear of relegation, and not in any reasonable competition for European places, and were on the beach, literally. The outstanding performer for Las Palmas was almost certainly Roque Mesa, who has been spectacular for Las Palmas this season, and really runs their midfield with his extremely calm and accurate passing, and is almost always their team leader in this category, operating in a not-dissimilar role to his opponent today, Gabi.
After making some out of pocket statements midweek about Antoine Griezmann, Jese Rodriguez was quite comically booked for diving, in a game where he made several sloppy errors with passes, after he had gotten himself in very good positions. The game petered out a bit, until, in the second half, when Kevin Prince Boateng led with his elbow on Jose Gimenez, which earned him a second yellow card. And from that point, the game was very much over, but Diego Simeone made subs in order to rest key players Gameiro and Griezmann and taking Josema off as a precaution. Thomas, Ángel Correa and Fernando Torres were the replacements.
The substitutes had a strong impact on this match, though they could have easily seen it out, with Las Palmas down to ten men, there were opportunities for attack. Thomas created a great chance from outside the box, where he found Correa, who returned the favor for Thomas to finish and add to Atleti’s lead. Then, in the dying embers of the game, Filipe Luis delivered another fantastic cross, which he has been doing throughout the season to Torres, who was totally free in the six yard box, and he finished the match off, in what was the final action of the match.
This win moves Atleti three points clear of Sevilla, who play at La Rosaleda on Monday against a resurgent Malaga. The most important point from this match was a great offensive performance ahead of a match where Atleti may need to get a couple goals, but the bad news is that Giménez got hurt (again) and is now a serious doubt for Tuesday.