Atletico Madrid ease past Espanyol, get La Liga season back on track
Atletico Madrid got their Primera Division season back on track with a 2-0 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.
Atletico lost 3-1 at Valencia before the international break to leave the defending Primera Division champions in fifth place, but goals from Tiago and Mario Suarez ensured they returned to winning ways.
The victory saw Atletico move up to fourth with 17 points from eight La Liga games, while Espanyol slipped to 11th with nine points from their eight fixtures.
Goals have been hard to come by for Diego Simeone’s team, who prior to Sunday’s fixture at the Vicente Calderon had averaged just a goal a game in seven league fixtures.
Los Rojiblancos’ lack of a cutting edge in front of goal was all too evident for the majority of the first half as, despite creating a number of clear-cut chances, they failed to test Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
Espanyol, who have yet to win on their travels in league action this season, would have been happy to reach half-time on level terms, but their resistance was finally broken two minutes from the interval when Tiago opened the scoring.
The Espanyol defense failed to clear a Koke corner and they paid the ultimate price when Tiago rose highest in a crowded penalty area to send a looping header past a flailing Casilla after Gabi had sent a lingering, deep cross from the right wing.
Espanyol started the second half brightly but, like Atletico in the first half, they could not take advantage of their spells of dominance.
Simeone replaced goalscorer Tiago and Arda Turan with Mario Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, before Espanyol manager Sergio Gonzalez countered by sending on Alex Fernandez, Christian Stuani and Paco Montanes.
Atletico repeatedly tried to hit Espanyol on the counter attack and Mario Mandzukic should have done better when he outmuscled right-back Javi Lopez but his tame shot was easily repelled by Casilla.
Suarez showed his team-mate how it should be done when he scored Atletico’s second to wrap up victory for the hosts in the 71st minute.
Espanyol again failed to clear an Atletico corner and Suarez, left unmarked at the far post, duly tapped home after Jose Gimenez headed the ball across the face of goal.
The second goal knocked the wind out of Espanyol’s sails and Atletico had a number of chances to extend their lead.
Griezmann shot tamely at Casilla after a good one-two with Gabi before hitting the woodwork after a lung-busting run down the right flank.
Atletico played keep-ball in the final stages of the game and huge cheers rang out around the Vicente Calderon when referee Inaki Vicandi Garrido blew the full-time whistle.