Atlético Madrid snatched defeat from the jaws of a late victory in their first outing of pre-season on Thursday against a K-League All-Star team at the Sangam Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.
⏱ 90'+4' | Team K League 3️⃣-2️⃣ Atleti— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) July 27, 2023
⏹ Final en el Seoul World Cup Stadium. pic.twitter.com/1VALdRXP7N
Thomas Lemar gave Atlético the lead in a commanding first-half display. Anton Kryvotsyuk pulled one back early in the second half after Diego Simeone changed his team completely at the break, but 21-year-old Carlos Martín grabbed what seemed to be a late winner for the Spanish side.
Debutant Santiago Mouriño then conceded a harsh penalty for pushing away an attacker, and Aleksandar Paločević converted the ensuing spot kick. Soon-min Lee then sealed a win for the all-K League team as the ball fell to him in the box in injury time.
Here are four talking points from the game as we got our first look at Atlético’s 2023/24 team.
1. Samuel Lino in the starting line-up
One of the surprises in Diego Simeone’s starting line-up was the decision to field Samuel Lino in the left-wing-back role. Yannick Carrasco has made that position his own but has struggled in recent days with an injury, and many expected new signing Javi Galán to start in his first appearance for the club.
Instead, it was the youngster who returned to Atlético for his first outing in a rojiblanco shirt after spending last season on loan at Valencia.
Lino was a livewire throughout and a crucial outlet down the left, particularly given the contrast to the right flank, where César Azpilicueta was more conservative with his offensive game.
The winger’s pace and energy made him a constant threat, and he offered Atleti real value in the transition to counter with speed. It’s exactly what the team were missing at times last season, and he may well have done enough to earn himself another chance in the side.
2. Is Álvaro Morata the world’s most unlucky man?
Three goals ruled out for offside and a smack of the woodwork once in just 45 minutes — that is peak Álvaro Morata.
On another day, a few inches different, Morata could have scored four against this K-League side. Instead, he went home empty-handed, albeit with a role in the opening goal.
Morata falling foul of offside is nothing new, but twice here he was marginally off. His frustration with the referee was clear as he lambasted him just before half-time, when he was fouled yet again.
It must be said that Morata looked a motivated figure, much like what we saw in the latter half of the 2022/23 season. Despite speculation linking him with a return to Italy, at no point did he look like a man with his mind elsewhere.
3. How (un)fit is Jan Oblak?
One of the few players to travel but not be involved was Jan Oblak. Having missed the end of the 2022/23 campaign through a neck injury, there were question marks over when the Slovenian would be fit again.
Despite training and travelling for this tour of South Korea, those doubts remain.
Oblak opted to undergo conservative treatment on his injury, rather than have surgery, and his comeback has taken time. It had been suggested that Oblak may miss the start of pre-season, but a lack of transparency from the club on his physical condition means that nobody knows quite when the number one goalkeeper will return to full fitness.
Ivo Grbić was fielded in the first half, looking reliable and established, commanding his box well when called upon. Antonio Gomis, the 20-year-old best known for coming on as an outfield player last pre-season, was given his turn in the second period. It was his misread that allowed Kryvotsyuk to equalise.
4. A literal game of two halves
This game was as much about marketing for the club as it was about game time and pre-season preparations, but what we saw was a game of two halves with two completely different Atlético Madrid teams, literally. Diego Simeone opted to change his XI completely at the break.
It was significant that Lino was the only player under the age of 27 to be in Simeone’s starting line-up. The average age of the starting XI on Thursday came in at 30 years, 2 months and 12 days of age, with six of the line-up over the age of 30. That seemed to be closer to the side we could expect from Simeone in competitive action, but the lack of youth remains a major concern.
In the second period, 28-year-old Galán, older than only three of those starting, was the most senior player on the field in red and white. While the first half was almost one-way traffic, the second was a more even affair, but it did mean a substantial run out for youngsters like Carlos Martín alongside summer signings Galán, Mouriño and Çağlar Söyüncü.