Diego Simeone felt he watched “close to the best version” of his Atletico Madrid side after they claimed a 1-0 advantage against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
Atletico tore into their Bundesliga opponents from kick-off amid a cacophony of noise at the Vicente Calderon that ramped up a few more notches when Saul Niguez netted a sensational 11th-minute solo goal.
Simeone’s men were at ease showing their famously dogged defensive qualities after the break, although Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres sprung forward on the break for the latter to hit the post 15 minutes from time.
Atletico reached the 2013-14 final, losing to rivals Real Madrid in the season they won La Liga.
A repeat could be on the cards as they lie level on points with leaders Barcelona in Spain’s top flight, while Real are deadlocked at 0-0 with Manchester City after the opening leg of the other Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium.
“That was possibly close to the best version of the team,” Simeone said.
“It was similar to the [quarter-final] match with Barcelona. We imposed the ways we want to play the game.
“The opponent has very great variations. Undoubtedly, the first half was much closer to what we feel comfortable with.
“And in the second half they were closer to what they feel most comfortable with.”
Simeone conceded he was staggered by the quality of Saul’s goal as little appeared on for the midfielder when he eased clear of Thiago Alcantara in midfield.
The Spain Under-21 international proceeded to jink past Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso before cutting inside David Alaba to score via the inside of the post.
“Saul looked great coming out of his first dribble. That makes you have the power to continue,” Simeone said.
“He has a lot of play in the one against one situations. When he left the first dribble, I did not imagine much more. I am very happy.”
Simeone was handed a three-match domestic touchline ban earlier on Wednesday following an incident when a ball was thrown on to the field from his technical area during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Malaga, interrupting a counter-attack for Atletico’s opponents.
But he will be back on the touchline for next Tuesday’s trip to the Allianz Arena, where he believes a place in the final remains very much up for grabs.
He told BT Sport: “It’s an open tie. Playing in Munich means they will have their fans behind them and home advantage.
“But we have the chance to get an away goal. It will be a close game like today but we will see who makes the most of their chances.”