Atletico Madrid consolidated their Champions League qualification hopes with a 2-0 win at Elche in Diego Simeone’s 400th LaLiga game in charge of the club.
Simeone’s side battled to a 1-0 victory over rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, and were soon ahead at Estadio Martinez Valero when Matheus Cunha opened the scoring in the first half.
Rodrigo de Paul added a second after the interval and Elche rarely threatened Jan Oblak’s goal in response, failing to have a shot on target all game.
It mattered little for the boisterous home crowd as Real Mallorca’s stalemate at Sevilla on Wednesday confirmed safety for Elche, while Atletico climbed into third – six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with two games to go.
14 – There were 14 passes in the build up to Atlético de Madrid’s goal against Elche, scored by Matheus Cunha – the longest passing sequence leading to a Atlético goal in LaLiga this season. Patience. pic.twitter.com/qpD6kEN72f
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 11, 2022
Sime Vrsaljko was forced off with injury after just six minutes before Cunha curled a presentable opportunity over in the opening exchanges.
Elche had scored two of their last three league goals from set-pieces and both Lucas Boye and Pedro Bigas headed narrowly off target from corners, but Atleti struck first.
Cunha opened the scoring after 28 minutes when substitute Renan Lodi latched onto Antonio Griezmann’s lofted pass to drill across for the Brazil forward to poke home.
Elche fans were in celebratory mood after the interval as news filtered through of Mallorca’s stalemate with Sevilla, while Bigas had to clear off the line as Cunha’s deflected strike looped goalward.
A slick passing move resulted in Atletico doubling their lead and sealing victory, with De Paul exchanging a quick one-two with Griezmann, who unselfishly squared for the midfielder to tap-in.
Substitute Luis Suarez was denied his 12th goal of the LaLiga season by the offside flag in stoppage time, as Atleti cruised to victory.
What does it mean? Milestone man Simeone continues Elche dominance
Simeone’s side eased to their 10th straight LaLiga victory over Elche, who have not defeated Atletico in all competitions since March 2002.
Victory capped a special day for Simeone, who became just the third manager to coach 400 LaLiga games with a single club, winning 244 of those matches across his 11-year spell in the Spanish capital.
Atletico have all but secured Champions League football for next season, with Betis requiring a remarkable turnaround in the last two games to earn a place in the top four.
Lodi was named among the substitutes but was soon introduced following the injury to Vrsaljko, and the substitute offered Simeone a timely reminder of his qualities.
The Brazil international was at his creative best down the left flank, supplying a game-high three chances in a dominant performance against Elche’s right-back Helibelton Palacios.
Griezmann played a vital role in Atletico’s goals, delicately chipping to left wing-back Lodi prior to his assist and teeing up De Paul when one-on-one with Edgar Badia, but the France star’s woes in front of goal continued at Elche.
The forward has failed to score in his last 13 league appearances, his longest goal drought in a single season in LaLiga since January 2012 (14 – his longest run without scoring in a single season in the top-flight).
Atletico can confirm their top-four spot by defeating fourth-placed Sevilla at home on Sunday, while Elche visit Celta Vigo on the same day.Follow us on Social Media