Revamped Atlético off to winning start in Spanish league
MADRID (AP) — With one run early in the second half of his Spanish league debut, teenage star João Félix gave Atlético Madrid fans a glimpse of the talent he can bring to the team this season.
The 19-year-old Portuguese forward, often touted at home as the next Cristiano Ronaldo, was behind the midfield line when he started his amazing run by niftily sending the ball through the legs of an opponent.
He quickly increased his speed with the ball at his feet to beat the next defender, then pulled off a step-over move to get past a third opponent before making it all the way to the penalty area, where he was finally brought down for a penalty kick.
“In one action he (Félix) showed the potential that he has,” Atlético Madrid coach Diego Simeone said after his revamped team’s 1-0 win over Getafe on Sunday. “We hope that with time these actions will become more regular.”
Álvaro Morata missed the penalty, but the striker had already scored in the first half to secure Atlético a winning start at home.
Morata scored after a well-placed cross by right back Kieran Trippier, who along with Félix was one of the many new players in an Atlético squad that was without Antoine Griezmann for the first time in five seasons.
Félix, Griezmann’s replacement after being signed from Benfica for more than 120 million euros ($133 million), was substituted with an apparent leg injury midway through the second half, but the team later said it wasn’t serious.
“He had cramps, so we decided to replace him,” Simeone said. “He’s fine.”
Both teams finished the match with 10 men at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Getafe striker Jorge Molina was shown a red card in the 38th for a foul from behind on Atlético midfielder Thomas Partey. Less than five minutes later, Renan Lodi — another newcomer for Atlético — was sent off with a second yellow for elbowing an opponent while jumping for a header.
Molina was initially shown a yellow card but the referee determined after video review that he deserved a red.
Getafe nearly pulled off an equalizer a few minutes from the end but Ángel Rodríguez’s long-range shot hit the crossbar.
Morata got on the board with a header in the 23rd after the assist from Trippier, who played well in his first competitive game with Atlético since joining from Tottenham.
Morata missed a chance to increase Atlético’s lead when his shot from the spot following Félix’s great run was saved by goalkeeper David Soria.
“Unfortunately I missed it, but we got the victory, which was what mattered the most,” Morata said.
In addition to losing Griezmann, whose move cost rival Barcelona 120 million euros in the offseason, Simeone’s team also lost veterans Diego Godín, Filipe Luis and Juanfran Torres.
New signings Mario Hermoso and Marcos Llorente came off the bench to make the official debuts.
Striker Diego Costa didn’t play because of a muscle injury.
On Saturday, Real Madrid opened with a 3-1 win at Celta Vigo.
Two-time defending league champion Barcelona lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Friday.
Sevilla had a successful start under former Spain coach Julen Lopetegui with a 2-0 win at Espanyol.
Sergio Reguilón and Manuel “Nolito” Agudo scored in each half in Sevilla’s first competitive match with the new coach.
This is Lopetegui’s first job since being fired after a brief stint with Real Madrid last year. He lost his Spain position just before the 2018 World Cup for taking the Madrid job without telling Spanish soccer officials in advance.
Reguilón, on loan from Real Madrid, opened the scoring with a shot from close range in the 44th, and Nolito sealed the victory after going past a defender inside the area in the 86th.
A penalty was awarded to Espanyol early in the second half, but the call was reversed after video review.
“We did well against a good team,” Nolito said. “It wasn’t easy, but we got the victory.”
Sevilla hopes to improve from its sixth-place finish last season.
Alavés beat Levante 1-0 at home with Joselu Sanmartín scoring the winner early in the second half, while Valladolid opened with a 2-1 win at Real Betis thanks to an 89th-minute goal by Oscar Plano.
Betis played with 10 men from the eighth minute after goalkeeper Joel Robles was shown a red card for breaking up a counterattack with a foul outside the area.
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