ATM XI: Oblak; Juanfran (Thomas 36’), Savić, Godín, Lucas; Rodri, Saúl, Lemar, Correa (Koke 66’); Griezmann (Gelson 76’), Costa.
RAY XI: Alberto García; Advíncula, Amat, Ba, Moreno; Elustondo; Kakuta (Medran 69’), Trejo, Comesaña (Pozo 68’), Álvaro García (Moreno 77’); Embarba.
Atlético Madrid looked to take their first win of the young La Liga season at home to newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano. Diego Simeone made two changes from the Valencia game, with Rodri coming in for Koke and Lucas entering for Filipe. These changes — specifically Rodri — should provide Atlético with a more balanced midfield and allow Saúl to do what he does best and push forward.
The match started quite frantically, with a flurry of blocked Atlético shots — Rayo struggled to get the ball clear and could not get out of their own way. Míchel’s men did well to create chances on the counter, particularly down Atleti’s left side as Stefan Savić’s lack of foot speed was exploited. After that, the game simmered, with Atleti having most of the possession without threatening the Rayo goal. Many attacks broke down around the edge of the box, with the final pass going missing through the opening half an hour.
Simeone was forced into an early change when Juanfran was forced off on 36’ for Thomas as a result of a calf injury. Juanfran had been targeted in the early going — and with no rest for him to start the season, perhaps it is no surprise that he is already injured.
The second half saw Atlético inch closer and closer until the breakthrough on 63 minutes. Ángel Correa won a corner through some hard work and Thomas Lemar’s ensuing delivery found Savić, who headed into the path of Antoine Griezmann. The World Cup winner volleyed it into the net from an onside position, and los rojiblancos had their goal from a set piece. While the home side was not entirely deserving of their lead, it seemed unlikely that they would have opened the scoring from open play.
Ten or so minutes later, Griezmann would be come off for Gelson, and Atleti had to hang on in the final 10 minutes. Rayo pushed hard for an equalizer, but Jan Oblak did well in his first interventions of the game. The visitors’ best chance came in the 89th minute, when Luis Advíncula fizzed in a ball from the right and teenage forward Sergio Moreno had a great opportunity from close range. Oblak made an excellent reaction save, though.
That was that for the match as the mattress makers held on to their slim advantage. It was by no means a vintage performance, but it was an important first win even as the performance should have been much better. To beat better teams, Atlético will have to play better, but so far, so good.