- Atletico Madrid welcomed Elche at the Wanad Metropolitano on Thursday in the La Liga
- Atletico needed a win to boost its chances of making it into the top four of Spain’s top-flight
- Goals from Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata secured all three points for Diego Simeone’s side
Goals from Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata handed Atletico Madrid a much-needed La Liga victory as they secured a 2-0 win against rock-bottom Elche on Thursday.
The contest had three red cards, with Elche captain Gonzalo Verdu dismissed late in the first half before Mario Hermoso was sent off for the hosts early in the second.
Joao Felix and Morata struck after that to seal the win, with substitute Domingos Quina also seeing red for the visitors in stoppage time as the Rojiblancos eased to three points at the Metropolitano.
After a three-game winless streak ahead of the mid-season World Cup break checked their momentum, Diego Simeone’s side will be relieved to return to winning ways.
Chances were few and far between for Atletico in the first half, and it was telling that even Verdu’s VAR-assisted dismissal for an off-the-ball foul on Morata just before the break did little to lift them.
Their man advantage was temporary, too, with Hermoso handed his marching orders after back-to-back bookings, the second for a reckless foul on Helibelton Palacios after the interval.
But Joao Felix’s close-range header, turning in Antoine Griezmann’s short rebound cross, gave the hosts a fresh lease of life and allowed them to play with greater freedom.
That translated into a second goal, this time after Morata exquisitely dribbled in off the right wing to turn the defence inside out in the 74th minute and effectively put the game to bed with a deflected effort that lopped over Edgar Badia and in.
Elche’s efforts to respond saw their discipline slip again. Late substitute Quina was dismissed for a quick double booking, the second after a clumsy foul on Morata, as Atletico cruised through to victory.
A Copa del Rey triumph over Arenteiro last week technically ensured a victorious return from the mid-season interval for Simeone’s side. Still, three points in La Liga is more than a symbolic gesture.
The Argentine coach will be frustrated his side did not make it easier for themselves but will nevertheless be happy to oversee a win.
After a sterling World Cup campaign that saw him fall just short of becoming a double champion with France, Griezmann was the crucial link for his club side today.
The Frenchman’s two assists take him to five for the season in La Liga, more than any of his Atletico team-mates.
There can be few complaints that the Elche captain should have seen punishment for his professional foul on Morata, though the straight red card will undoubtedly infuriate him.
It is his second dismissal of the season, making him the third man from the club to achieve the feat in La Liga this century, after Damian Suárez and Cristian Sapuranu, both in 2013-14.
Both sides head up for last-32 action in the Copa del Rey, with Elche facing AD Ceuta and Atletico battling with Real Oviedo.