MADRID: Atletico Madrid produced one of their best performances of the season to thrash Real Valladolid 3-0 on Saturday (Jan 21), with Memphis Depay making his debut.
The Dutch forward, signed from Barcelona on Friday, came off the bench in the second half but by then Antoine Griezmann’s virtuoso display had the hosts in full control at the Metropolitano.
The French forward produced a sublime assist for Alvaro Morata to open the scoring and then struck the second himself.
Mario Hermoso netted the third from the rebound after his header from Griezmann’s free-kick was parried back into his path.
Those three goals in an 11-minute spell in the first half wrapped up the points for fourth-placed Atletico.
Diego Simeone’s team have endured a tough season both in the league and also in Europe, where they were eliminated, but earned a second win in seven league games to get heading back in the right direction.
On Thursday they face rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, important both as a derby but also their last realistic chance of silverware this season.
“I’m very happy, very pleased with the team’s performance,” Griezmann told DAZN.
“We have been doing well since the World Cup, playing with intensity, hard work, having chances up front, but we lacked a goal.
“That was largely my fault, because I was having chances but couldn’t get it in. This goal will help me a lot mentally to get scoring again.”
Invigorated by the cup draw and Depay’s arrival, Atletico started brilliantly.
Griezmann’s stunning back-flick played in Morata, who cut inside and drilled home at the near post.
Five minutes later Griezmann doubled Atletico’s lead, blasting home Nahuel Molina’s cross.
Hermoso’s third was validated after a long VAR check and Atletico spurned chances to increase their winning margin after the break.
Angel Correa hit both posts with one shot, while Yannick Carrasco twice came close.
The victory brings Atletico within 10 points of leaders Barcelona, albeit having played two extra games.
The Catalans host Getafe on Sunday, while second-placed Real Madrid travel to face Athletic Bilbao.
Real Sociedad, third, beat Rayo Vallecano 2-0 earlier Saturday to pull level on 38 points with Real Madrid.
The visitors opened the scoring at Vallecas after 15 minutes when veteran playmaker David Silva set up Norwegian striker Alexander Sorloth, who prodded home.
The striker now has five goals in his last five league games for the club, helping drive La Real into the upper echelons of the table.
Without key midfielders Mikel Merino and Martin Zubimendi, injured and suspended respectively, Real Sociedad weren’t at their best but did well to ward off Rayo’s attacks.
Ander Barrenetxea doubled the Basque side’s lead in the 36th minute with a tidy finish when a flicked-on corner found its way through to him at the back post.
It was the 21-year-old forward’s first start since a severe hamstring injury in January 2022.
“This won’t lead us to make the mistake of loosening up, there’s a long way to go, we’re not even at the half-way point yet,” said coach Imanol Alguacil.
“For now it’s true that we’ve had a great start but we have to keep that going, otherwise it’s not worth anything.”
Earlier Espanyol earned a 1-0 win over Real Betis.