Atletico open season with nervy win over La Liga newcomer Las Palmas
A first-half goal from Antoine Griezmann ensured that Atletico Madrid made a winning start to the new La Liga season as it defeated Las Palmas 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon.
Diego Simeone handed a debut to new recruit Jackson Martinez, but the Colombian struggled to threaten the goal in almost an hour on the pitch. Instead it was left to one of last season's leading lights, Griezmann, to settle the contest, though there was a large element of luck as the Frenchman's deflected free kick secured three points.
The result capped a positive week for Atletico, which also saw key defender Diego Godin sign a one-year contract extension. However, Simeone will have concerns about his side's inability to kill the game off, with Las Palmas seeing a string of late chances repelled by the excellent Jan Oblak.
Expected to dominate against newly-promoted opposition, Atleti created two chances in the opening five minutes. First, Griezmann flashed a snap-shot narrowly wide before Tiago climbed highest to meet a Juanfran cross from the right, but failed to direct his header on target.
An opening goal for the hosts seemed inevitable as they continued to pile on the pressure and it duly arrived in the 16th minute. Griezmann's 22-yard free kick deflected off the wall and left Las Palmas goalkeeper Raul Lizoain flatfooted. Las Palmas refused to crumble after that early setback and although it produced little going forward, it defended stoutly, with Lizoain producing a fine save to deny the lively Griezmann in first-half stoppage time.
Returning left back Filipe Luis had been a constant threat for Atleti during the opening period and he continued to torment the Las Palmas defense after the break, whipping in a superb cross on 55 minutes which the onrushing Martinez was just unable to slide into the net. The Brazilian neglected his defensive duties moments later, however, failing to mark David Simon at a set piece and allowing the defender a free header which grazed the crossbar as the away side gathered momentum.
And Simeone's men enjoyed another let-off in the 74th minute when Oblak pulled off a magnificent save low to his right to keep out a close-range effort from Aythami. The altogether busier Lizoain then matched Oblak at the other end by keeping out a ferocious angled strike from Filipe as Atleti continued to press for a second goal right to the final whistle, while Koke clipped the post with a free kick in the final minute of normal time.
Next up for the men from the capital is a tricky trip to Sevilla, while Las Palmas will hope to pick up its first points of the season when it hosts Levante.
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