Simeone’s tactical move gives Atletico the edge over Juventus
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone is renowned for his wild touchline antics, but a shrewd tactical move with a triple substitution swung their Champions League game against Juventus firmly his side's way.
With the last-16, first leg delicately poised and goalless as the hour mark approached, the Argentinian introduced forwards Angel Correa, Alvaro Morata and Thomas Lemar.
His side went on to win 2-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Morata had a goal ruled out for a push on Giorgio Chiellini, but a breakthrough finally came when defender Jose Gimenez scored after a knockdown by Morata from a corner whipped in by Lemar.
Diego Godin doubled Atletico's lead following a well-worked free-kick, giving Simeone's side a huge advantage over the runaway Serie A leaders ahead of the return leg in Turin next month.
"They all knew about the substitution, I called Correa, Lemar and Morata together, and Koke and (Diego) Costa knew they were not able to play 90 minutes," Simeone said.
"They all played brilliantly after coming on and played as a team. Doing what we have done over these years is not easy and today we did it again."
Simeone still made headlines for his wild behaviour on the touchline, however, putting his hands on his trousers in a provocative celebration after Gimenez had broken the deadlock.
"It means we are brave," he said.
"You have to be brave to start Costa and Koke after they hadn't played for over a month, and that's what I did.
"I feel so great because of these players. They represent the true meaning of Atletico. This is what we are and we aren't going to change. It's our style."
The Rojiblancos delivered a timely reminder of why they have reached two Champions League finals in the last five years and how, this season, they want success more than ever.
This was their best performance of the season, perhaps even in the 17-month history of their new home.
"Beasts!" read the headline in Marca after their victory.
"This was Atletico in their purest form," wrote El Pais.
"They dominated Juventus. Who can stop them now?" demanded AS.
The intensity, rigour and military precision in defence were all familiar ingredients, but more surprising was their sense of purpose in attack.
There was the energy of Costa on his first start in almost 12 weeks and the confidence of Morata off the bench, who helped to set up the opener with his downward header falling to Gimenez's right foot.
But they will have to negotiate the second leg without the suspended Costa and Thomas Partey.
Juventus defender Alex Sandro will also miss the second leg in Turin after getting a yellow card. - REUTERS, AFP
ATLETICO MADRID: Oblak, Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Felipe, Niguez, Partey (Lemar 61), Rodrigo, Koke (Correa 67), Griezmann, Costa (Morata 58)
JUVENTUS: Szczesny, de Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro, Bentancur, Pjanic (Can 72), Matuidi (Cancelo 84), Dybala (Bernardeschi 80), Mandzukic, Ronaldo