Atletico shine while Athletic falter – Europa League Round UpMarch 8, 2018
Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao continued to represent La Liga in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday night with the capital side producing a confident performance while the Basques faltered in France, I take a look back at the action.
Atletico kicked off in the early set of fixtures at home to Lokomotiv Moscow in their first leg, heavy favourites to overcome the Russians and take a commanding lead across Europe next week.
Los Colchoneros were in control of the game from the off and took the lead with an absolutely stunning goal courtesy of Saul Niguez. The Spaniard got the ball just inside the Moscow half and proceeded towards goal before unleashing a rocket of a shot from 40 yards which flew into the top corner of the net.
Lokomotiv struggled to get forward in the first half with Eder struggling to retain the ball and the only time they entered the Atleti box, Alexey Miranchuk was booked for diving under a challenge from Jose Gimenez.
At 1-0, the Russians were still in the game and needed a solid start to the second half but instead got the exact opposite with Diego Costa slotting home the rebound after Antoine Griezmann’s shot had been kept out by Guilherme.
Diego Simeone’s men continued to press for another goal and in stoppage time, they managed to find the net for a third time to add some gloss to the scoreline.
Juanfran won back possession high up the right hand side of the pitch before picking out the onrushing Koke to find the corner and hand them a handsome lead to take to Moscow for next Thursday’s early kick off.
Things were much different for Athletic Bilbao with a first half collapse seeing them crash to a 3-1 defeat at Marseille.
The hosts started well and went ahead after just 45 seconds with Lucas Ocampos knocking home from inside the six yard box after a tidy pass from Florian Thauvin.
Oscar De Marcos went close to a quickfire equaliser for Athletic but saw his shot kept out by Steve Mandanda with the hosts instead doubling their lead on 14 minutes.
Xabier Etxeita swiped his clearance straight to Dimitri Payet who controlled before hammering a half volley beyond the helpless Iago Herrerin from 16 yards out.
Valere Germain was then denied one-on-one by Herrerin and again soon after following yet another Etxeita mistake as Marseille battered a woeful Bilbao.
Somehow, Athletic would go into half time just one behind with Aritz Aduriz dinking the ball into the net from the penalty spot.
His strike came off the arm of Adil Rami with the referee originally awarding a corner, nut after consultation with his official behind the goal he pointed to the spot with Aduriz scoring, to the annoyance of the home players.
Ocampos added a third just before the hour when Payet found him from the right with his shot squirming through Herrerin to confirm a dreadful night for the La Liga side who have it all to do at San Mames next week.
Atletico Madrid 3-0 Lokomotiv Moscow
Marseille 3-1 Athletic Bilbao