Atletico Madrid cruise past Rayo, advance to Copa del Rey quarters
Angel Correa scored five minutes before the interval, then Antoine Griezmann came off the bench to score twice in the final 10 minutes as La Liga leader Atletico Madrid eased past Rayo Vallecano 3-0 in their Copa del Rey second leg match Thursday night.
The 4-1 aggregate success sends Atletico into the quarterfinals on a night when they labored for long stretches but never really looked like failing to advance. With a La Liga match in Las Palmas just 72 hours away and having an away goal from the 1-1 first leg, Atletico boss Diego Simeone elected to rest many of his top-of-the-table regulars in the Vicente Calderon. Griezmann was on the bench along with Gabi and Luciano Vietto with the starting attack composed of Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Jackson Martinez and Correa, all of whom have been featuring as substitutes. At the same time, Rayo, involved in its own relegation battle, made nine changes to rest players for Sunday's early league kickoff at Valencia.
The result was a first half between two sides that often looked out of sync. Rayo seemed content to keep it very tight at the back and frustrate Atletico's passing game leaving the onus on the home team to force the action. The first real chance fell to Atletico in the 32nd minute, Thomas Partey getting his head to a free kick, forcing Yoel to touch the 16-yard effort over the bar. A Diego Godin header from a corner had to be scrambled clear six minutes later before Correa broke the deadlock with a terrific drive from the top-left.
Carrasco made the penetrating run on the left, dropped the ball for Correa, who took steps back and to his right before cutting loose the shot which skimmed the bottom of the crossbar with Yoel well-beaten. Nacho's last minute sliding tackle in the 44th minute denied Jackson Martinez a chance to finish a Correa cross -- and perhaps the contest -- when Atletico caught Rayo flat at the back and went in on a break that looked like producing a second goal just before the interval.
That bit of defense meant that with the match still not secured, Simeone had to send on Griezmann and Gabi for the final 20 minutes when Rayo was enjoying more possession in search of goal that would force extra time. Gabi immediately tightened up the midfield and Griezmann then did the expected. Holding off Baena to a raking Koke corner, he beat Yoel with a special, close-range overhead kick that finished any hope for Rayo.
His second came in stoppage time when Yoel was stranded as Griezmann ran onto a pass from the halfway line to score into an open net.