Atlético Madrid handed out a thrashing at RZD Arena at Thursday night, securing their place in the Europa League quarterfinals with a 5-1 victory over hosts Lokomotiv Moscow.
The 8-1 aggregate win — Atlético’s largest since 2011/12 — flashed Atlético’s credentials as the clear favorites in this competition entering Friday’s quarterfinal draw. Atleti ran riot in the freezing cold to oust the possible Russian Premier League champions, scoring four times in the second half to leave no doubt as to their superiority.
Diego Simeone rang in the changes with his team sheet, as he made six alterations from the side that beat Celta Vigo on Sunday. Filipe Luís and Juanfran took up their familiar full back positions, while Jan Oblak received some rest as Axel Werner replaced him. Simeone started four central midfielders as Vitolo slid back to the bench, and the boss stuck Antoine Griezmann there as well — Ángel Correa and Fernando Torres were partnered up top.
Torres had the game’s first good chance, as he forced a save from Anton Kochenkov inside five minutes. Surprisingly, Atlético were not content to sit back in the early going and instead chased an away goal that would truly put the tie out of reach. On 16 minutes, Atlético scored such a goal when Mikhail Lysov slipped while trying to keep up with Ángel Correa, who took advantage to slide home a nice finish following a one-two with Koke. That goal made Lokomotiv’s hole even deeper, although Maciej Rybus pulled one back for the hosts with a long-range screamer that caught Werner cold. Juanfran almost restored the advantage before halftime, but his effort bounced off the keeper and the crossbar.
But it wouldn’t take long after halftime for Atleti to grab the lead back. Saúl Ñíguez — who is absolutely loving this competition — started and finished a one-two with Filipe Luís to put los colchoneros back in front. Saúl scored in both legs of this tie and has four goals in European competition this season (three in the Europa League).
However, Atlético’s night would be sullied on the hour when Filipe injured himself blocking an Éder shot. The Portuguese was one-on-one with Werner when he inadvertently smashed a stud into Filipe’s ankle — the Brazilian had to be stretchered off and looked to be in serious pain. Juanfran was substituted at halftime as a precaution; the club announced that he was experiencing muscular discomfort.
Fernando Torres refused to have his night dampened by the injuries, though. He converted a penalty five minutes after the hour — Griezmann had been cut down while trying to round Kochenkov — and added a second on 70 minutes. Correa slid a wonderful ball into his path and El Niño hit a vintage right-footed finish to apply even more gloss to the aggregate scoreline. Griezmann then completed the demolition with a supreme floated finish that left Kochenkov motionless.
Aside from the early full back departures, it was just about a perfect night for Atlético, who now await Friday’s quarterfinal draw to find out their next Europa League opponent.
Lokomotiv Moscow: Kochenkov; Rybus, Kverkvelia, Corluka (Pejcinovic, 75’), Lysov; Anton Miranchuk, Denisov, Kolomejtsev (Tarasov, 63’), Aleksey Miranchuk, Fernandes; Farfán (Éder, 46’).
Goals: Rybus 20’
Atlético Madrid: Werner; Juanfran (Vrsaljko, 46’), Giménez, Godín, Filipe Luís (Lucas, 62’); Thomas, Gabi, Saúl (Griezmann, 61’), Koke; Correa, Torres.
Goals: Correa 16’, Saúl 47’, Torres 65’ 70’, Griezmann 86’