As Diego Simeone’s side climbed to the top of the LaLiga, a rare Thomas Lemar goal helped Atletico Madrid to a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Real Valladolid at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Simeone named Joao Felix, Koke and Marcos Llorente among the replacements for the following week’s main games against Salzburg and Real Madrid, and Atleti struggled to get going as a result.
At half-time, Llorente was added and Joao Felix and Koke followed before the hour, while Lemar had made the all-important breakthrough with his first club goal since April 2019 a few moments earlier.
From that point, Atleti was in charge and added a second by replacing Llorente’s route-one strike as the leaders made it seven league wins in a row to climb above Real Sociedad.
Angel Correa’s long-range shot was spilled by Jordi Masip, but Luis Suarez could not take advantage of four minutes before returning, miscontrolled the ball as he attempted to round the keeper.
In the first half, the visitors entered the game unbeaten at three and looked the more threatening, with Jan Oblak keeping Oscar Plano and Marcos de Sousa out of their efforts.
When De Sousa’s volleyed shot at the back post was blocked by Kieran Trippier in front of the target, Simeone’s men were given another scare four minutes into the second period.
But Atletico grew into the game and a few moments after Correa fired wide on the turn, Lemar converted Trippier’s cross from a tight angle after Suarez failed to reach it at full stretch.
That ended a run of 45 games without a goal for the French international in all competitions and Atleti had a second 16 minutes later – Trippier flicking on Oblak’s pass to race through Llorente and tuck past Masip.