Atletico Madrid made it two wins from two to start their LaLiga title defence as they beat Elche 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.
A stylish first-half finish from Angel Correa was all that separated the sides in a game of few clear-cut chances in the Spanish capital.
With temperatures still pushing 35 degrees Celcius in the second half, it was a relatively sedate contest, albeit one lit up by the display of new Atleti signing Rodrigo de Paul during the first hour.
It was the Argentina international’s pass that led to the only goal via an error from Kiko Casilla and he could have had a second assist after the break had Yannick Carrasco been more clinical.
Atleti mustered little more than speculative efforts from Saul Niguez and Thomas Lemar in the opening half-hour, as the champions allowed Elche more of the ball but denied them any real openings.
The visitors ultimately gifted Atleti the lead 39 minutes in. Casilla raced off his line to clear De Paul’s clever throughball and missed, allowing Correa to take his time before burying his fourth goal in three LaLiga games.
8 – Ángel Correa has scored eight goals in his last ten games for @atletienglish in all competitions, one more than in his previous 63 appearances for the club (seven). Enjoying#AtletiElche #AtleticoMadrid pic.twitter.com/rQ055MzdRx
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 22, 2021
It was almost 2-0 a minute after half-time, Jose Gimenez’s powerful header from a corner beaten away by Casilla, and Carrasco could not beat the Elche keeper after being picked out by De Paul.
Elche continued to have more of the ball, but Jan Oblak had largely hopeful shots from outside the box to deal with, while home substitute Luis Suarez could have done better from a Carrasco cut-back.
Suarez was booked for lashing the ball away after a tight offside call, but there was little to worry the home fans in the closing minutes.
What does it mean? Atleti keep up Elche expectations
Atletico have now won nine consecutive LaLiga games against Elche and kept clean sheets in six of them, while their unbeaten home run against Fran Escriba’s side – already a club record – stands at 23 games in the top flight.
This was another controlled if not overly inspiring performance from the champions, who have started a season with back-to-back wins for the fourth time under Simeone.
For Elche, the wait for a first goal of the season goes on.
De Paul the pick of the bunch
This was a performance of real class from De Paul on his full debut in front of the Wanda Metropolitano crowd, showing what a good signing he could prove to be.
It was his outside-of-the-foot pass that led to Correa’s opener, one of two chances created, while he led the way for opposition-half passes with 22 before being taken off 62 minutes in.
Suarez’s welcome return
Atleti’s title win in 2020-21 was built on the clinical form of Suarez in attack and the Uruguay striker was given a rapturous reception off the bench here.
Correa looks increasingly confident in attack, but Carrasco is not a long-term option as his strike partner. Keeping Suarez fit could be key to their season.
Atleti are at home to Villarreal next Sunday, while next up for Elche is the visit of Sevilla in six days’ time.
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