Lleida Esportiu XI: Oliveros, Nuñez, Trilles, Satrustegui, Bendeh, Molina (Felix 63’), Valiente, Gning, Pumar (Lopez 62’), Agudo (Martinez 70’), Radulovic
Atlético Madrid XI: Moyá, Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Lucas, Correa (Costa 64’), Augusto, Saúl, Carrasco (Vitolo 58’), Gameiro, Torres (Griezmann 64’)
This season’s Copa del Rey represents a great chance for Atlético Madrid to win major silverware for the first time since 2014. So far, their drawn opponents have been kind, both coming from the third division and on paper fairly straightforward, given these matches are over two legs. The opposition in this year’s Round of 16 is Lleida Esportiu, an important club historically, but one that had to be reborn after their previous iteration’s financial meltdown in 2011.
Diego Simeone knew this match was one in which he could rotate, even as the players were fresh following the holiday break. Miguel Ángel Moyá got a start, as did Augusto and Yannick Carrasco. Tactically, it was a different Atlético as well, with two wingers flanking two central midfielders; too often this season Simeone has persisted playing four central midfielders. The bench also featured Atleti’s new boys: Diego Costa and Vitolo.
Lleida got off to a surprisingly strong start and put a good deal of pressure on the Atlético back four, who looked a touch rusty to start. The Catalans had a few chances, most of which were off target. Lucas Hernández was an early target for the Lleida attack, and struggled a bit in the opening stages as the injured Filipe Luís’ replacement, but grew into his role as the match moved along. Atleti looked a bit soft in midfield, and this was exposed 25 minutes in, when a corner led to a dangerous Lleida counterattack in which Iván Agudo would have put the hosts into the lead if not for Moyá.
Just after half an hour, los colchoneros took the lead through the captain on the night, Diego Godín, who latched on the end of a Carrasco free kick for a classic Godín header. The free kick had been well won by Fernando Torres, and well delivered by Carrasco, altogether a very important goal that came frankly against the run of play. And four minutes later, Atleti doubled their lead through a great run and cross by Kévin Gameiro, who played in Torres to slide and tap home. Torres was offside, but it went uncalled and El Niño reaped the rewards.
Lleida started the second half brightly, too, with Moyá required to stop Agudo again. Sensing an opportunity to switch things up and truly kill the tie, Simeone swapped Carrasco for Vitolo on 58 minutes (which was a bit harsh on the Belgian, who played really well).
Five minutes later, Diego Costa made his third Atleti debut, and Antoine Griezmann entered with him. And then all our dreams came true on 69 minutes when Costa turned in Juanfran’s cross to extend the lead to 3-0. However, Costa hurt himself while scoring the goal — a Lleida defender accidentally stomped on his leg — and the celebrations soon had a nervy air to them. Costa limped off, but under his own strength and soon returned to the action, though clearly uncomfortable. He did manage to run under his own power again, which was a good sign.
Into stoppage time, Lleida were reduced to ten men after Marc Trilles was sent off for a second yellow, and Antoine Griezmann converted the ensuing free kick off the wall to kill the match and the tie.
Atlético played well after a slow start and there are lots of positives to take from this one: Costa doing what he does best, Vitolo making his debut, Carrasco putting in a good shift and likely rest in the second leg.