Atletico Madrid’s trademark defensive nous provided a strong platform as Diego Simeone’s men began 2017 with a hard-fought 2-0 win at Las Palmas to put one foot in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.
The home side dominated possession for much of the first-leg contest and produced some eye-catching football, but they struggled to break through the stubborn defence of an Atletico side who inflicted a first home defeat on Las Palmas in any competition since March.
Atletico’s performance in the first half was vintage Simeone, as they took the lead through Koke against the run of play before then sitting back and absorbing pressure rather comfortably.
Las Palmas continued to enjoy more of the ball in the second half, with Jonathan Viera particularly lively, but they were caught out at the back just after the interval and Antoine Griezmann added Atletico’s second from close range.
Kevin Gameiro should have put the tie beyond Las Palmas a few moments later, though Atletico were ultimately not made to rue that miss, keeping things tight at the back to take a commanding lead to the Vicente Calderon for next Tuesday’s second leg.
Las Palmas looked the more purposeful of the two sides during the early exchanges and caused Atletico some bother in the 14th minute, but Miguel Angel Moya was alert as Asdrubal headed Viera’s cross straight at the goalkeeper.
Atletico swiftly looked to take charge and Koke fired a warning shot shortly after, hammering into the side-netting from the left corner of the penalty area.
And the hosts failed to heed that warning, as Koke put Atletico ahead in the 23rd minute – the Spain international sending a fierce 20-yard effort into the bottom-left corner.
Atletico showed little attacking intent thereafter until the break, challenging Las Palmas to break them down, and Quique Setien’s men failed to pose much of a threat.
Las Palmas’ task was made even tougher five minutes after the restart.
Sime Vrsaljko’s right-wing cross brilliantly picked out Kevin Gameiro at the back post and the Frenchman nodded the ball across the face of goal for his compatriot Griezmann to head into an empty net.
Gameiro should have had a goal of his own soon after, but he blasted wide from 18 yards under pressure from Aythami Artiles at the end of a rapid break.
Las Palmas plugged away during the final stages and caused problems, with Vicente Gomez forcing Moya into a good save from just inside the area.
But Atletico never looked like surrendering their lead and will be huge favourites to progress in the second leg.
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