Mandzukic sinks hat trick in Atletico Madrid’s Champions League win over Olympiakos
Mario Mandzukic’s hat-trick saw Atletico Madrid qualify in emphatic style for the Champions League last 16.
A dominant first half saw Atletico 2-0 up thanks to Raul Garcia’s shambolic opener and Mandzukic’s goal shortly before half-time.
Two second-half headers from Mandzukic led to a 4-0 scoreline which was no less than the Spaniards deserved and left them needing only a draw with Juventus in two weeks’ time to top the group.
Should they beat the Italians it would open the door for Olympiakos to also qualify by beating Malmo, though they would need a performance unrecognizable from this fiasco.
Olympiakos keeper Roberto Jimenez saved Garcia’s early header but was horribly culpable when the same player opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
Juanfran’s cross was poked back to the keeper by defender Alberto Botia, but Roberto inexplicably side-footed the ball straight back to Juanfran and the full-back’s second delivery was diverted home by Garcia at the near post.
The visitors’ only shot of the first half came from veteran defender Eric Abidal, the former Barcelona and Monaco man sending a ferocious half-volley just high and wide in the 22nd minute.
Roberto pushed Cristian Ansaldi’s drive around the post before Garcia, twice, and Tiago Cardoso failed to hit the target.
The second goal arrived in the 38th minute, though, when Ansaldi’s cross was terribly missed by Botia and tapped in by an unguarded Mandzukic at the back post.
Olympiakos coach Michel was clearly unhappy with his side’s abject showing and captain Giannis Maniatis was one of two men replaced at the break, Ibrahim Afellay also withdrawn as Pajtim Kasami and David Fuster were introduced. Atleti replaced Cardoso with Mario Suarez.
Koke’s free-kick took the merest of touches off Garcia, making Roberto’s point-blank save hugely impressive, before Botia deflected Mandzukic’s effort wide.
But Mandzukic scored twice more in quick succession to complete his hat-trick and take his side out of reach.
He met Arda Turan’s cross with a powerful downward header for his second in the 62nd minute and pulled away from the robust marking of Botia to power in Gabi Fernandez’s free-kick three minutes later.
The two headed strikes suggested there was little to worry about regarding the neck injury which had made Mandzukic a pre-match doubt, but with the game won he was withdrawn for a well-earned rest and replaced by Antoine Griezmann.
The France international soon headed over another dangerous Juanfran cross and when more shocking defending allowed Ansaldi to pull a ball across from the byline, it just eluded Garcia.
Garcia headed wide after Juanfran’s cross somehow found five Atletico players up against just two opponents – one of them the attack-minded Kasami.
Koke’s corner was allowed to bounce across the six-yard line and was headed in by Griezmann – but with fellow substitute Raul Jimenez standing offside right in front of Roberto, the goal was rightly disallowed and Olympiakos were spared further embarrassment.