Atletico Madrid opened the new La Liga campaign by doing what Atletico Madrid do best: grinding out an intensely contested 1-0 victory over Getafe at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Alvaro Morata’s header was the difference between the sides in a game which saw both sides reduced to ten men, but there were plenty more talking points to emerge from a contest which was rarely pretty but always competitive.
Here are three of the key storylines.
Joao Felix lights up the Metropolitano
After a stunning run of form during pre-season, all eyes were on Atletico’s teen wonder Joao Felix on his competitive debut. The Portuguese starlet became the third-most expensive player in history when the Rojiblancos splashed out €120 million to secure his services from Benfica in the summer, and he lived up to the initial billing by excelling in the friendly schedule – especially during a crazy 7-3 thrashing of Real Madrid.
Performing to that kind of standard in a competitive setting was always going to be a different matter, and against the rigid defensive wall set up by Getafe – who did a great job of denying any space to play in – he initially struggled to make a significant impact.
However, Joao Felix lived up to his billing with one explosive piece of action ten minutes into the second half. Picking up a loose ball in midfield, he embarked upon a magical 40-yard dribble by nutmegging the first opponent, sidestepping the second, driving past a third and continuing his run into the penalty area, where he was brought down for a penalty by a desperate challenge from Bruno Gonzalez.
Morata spoiled the moment by having his spot-kick saved by Getafe keeper David Soria, but that sensational run was enough to keep the Atletico faithful happy and suggest that this special teenager will be able to fulfil all the lofty expectations which are being piled upon his shoulders.
Cmon Joao Felix, these people have family too. pic.twitter.com/a3x4xDbCYE— God of Thunder ⚡️⚡️ (@Mana_K_Tum_) August 18, 2019
Atletico grind it out
Connected to the arrival of Felix is the question of whether Atletico boss Diego Simeone is planning to implement a more open and expansive style of play in the coming campaign, as opposed to the cautious and defensive-minded approach he has preached throughout his eight years in charge.
Hard-working and stubborn Getafe are perhaps not the best opponents to gauge Simeone’s future intentions, but on this evidence it will be more of the same – with a bit of stardust from Joao Felix – after Atletico stuck to their old routine by grinding out a hard-earned 1-0 victory.
The pattern of the game was clearly affected by red cards for Getafe skipper and Atletico left-back Renan Lodi just before the break, but even before those dismissals the pattern had been cast as Atletico offered up a fairly conservative but typically organised display.
Tellingly, the best individual performances came from defenders, with English right-back Kieran Trippier providing a magnificent cross for Morata’s goal and central defensive duo Jose Maria Gimenez and Stefan Savic giving Getafe’s forward line no room to breathe. And although Simeone has a wealth of forward talent at his disposal, the early indications are that business will continue as usual.
Getafe lack cutting edge
Getafe were last season’s big success story in La Liga, rising from obscurity to finish in fifth place and narrowly miss out on a spot in the Champions League, and the question of whether they will prove to be lasting achievers rather than one-season wonders is one of the most intriguing topics as we enter the new campaign,
Manager Jose Bordalas has been able to keep together the core of last season’s squad, adding more firepower with the capture of Enric Gallego from relegated Huesca and thrust down the left wing through Barcelona loanee Marc Cucurella.
And this was a typical Getafe performance, very much mirroring Atletico’s style: an organised defensive unit, working hard to close down space, attempting to attack through width from the full-backs and displaying a never say die attitude.
It wasn’t quite enough, with the home team’s defence yielding virtually no clear chances and Getafe only truly threatening from the occasional set-piece and a speculative 30-yard piledriver from sub Angel Rodriguez which crashed against the crossbar. It’s too early to tell whether Bordalas’s men will repeat last season’s heroics, but this time around they didn’t quite have enough attacking quality to earn a point.
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