Lemar runs the show: Atlético Madrid’s big summer signing, Thomas Lemar, showed his class in his first competitive match for the rojiblancos. Much of what was good about Atlético’s attack in the first half went through Lemar, who was very successful in operating in between the deeper central midfielders and the strikers. Lemar was able to impact the game further once Antoine Griezmann went off on 57’, as he was able to take up a more advanced position in spaces where Griezmann tends to operate. It will be interesting to see how the two will function in the same space, but Lemar’s quality couldn’t be denied on Wednesday.
Diego Costa does Diego Costa things: The real star of the show, of course, was the irreplaceable Diego Costa, who scored Atlético’s two goals in normal time. First was the unbelievable solo goal scored before a minute had elapsed, as he took down an innocuous Diego Godín long ball and smashed home from an extraordinarily tight angle. The second again featured determination, this time from Juanfran, who found Ángel Correa in the box. Correa showed off his close control and quick feet to pull the ball back to Costa so he could equalize.
A rather nice moment followed Real Madrid’s second goal when Costa applied his studs to the back of Sergio Ramos’ head. Costa had already been booked but got away with it, as one does.
Defensive rust shows: Though Atlético’s back four played below their usual standard for a large portion of this match. Stefan Savić made crucial interventions in the first half but he still should not start on a regular basis for this team. Perhaps this was more to do with José Giménez playing at the World Cup — but so did Diego Godín, who is nine years Giménez’s senior. At times, Juanfran looked good on the right, but it will be a problem if he plays over Santiago Arías regularly. Finally, though he won the World Cup as a left back, Lucas Hernández showed on a couple occasions why he is better suited as a center back. Though he certainly has the athleticism to be a full back, the final delivery required is not quite of the requisite quality. Lucas completed just 62 percent of his passes, whereas Juanfran completed 84 percent.
Midfield promising, but a work in progress: Rodri made his competitive debut and did his Gabi impression quite convincingly. The more he works with the players around him and grows accustomed to the system, the better he’ll get. Though they both scored, Koke and Saúl have yet to figure out how best to work together in advanced roles, which hopefully will be sorted at some stage this season.
One positive of this summer is that with two new wide players — plus Vitolo from last year — Koke’s time in wider areas may be over. Perhaps this season’s tactical flexibility will play to his advantage especially — particularly if Diego Simeone grows more comfortable with a three man midfield.