MADRID – Atletico Madrid cruised to a 3-0 win on Thursday against Lokomotiv Moscow in the first leg of their Europa League round-of-16 tie.
The Russian first division leaders seemed out of their depth against Atleti, which is second in La Liga behind Barcelona.
“We are hungry to win a title and it all begins here,” the Colchoneros’ Koke said on the eve of Thursday’s contest at the Wanda Metropolitano.
With La Liga out of reach after last weekend’s loss to Barça, the Europa League represents Atleti’s only shot to hoist a trophy this season, which would be its first since it won the Spanish league in 2013-2014.
Lokomotiv’s decision to go with a five-man back line signaled a determination to defend and the plan worked until the 22nd minute, when Atleti midfielder Saul Ñiguez grabbed the ball at the center of the pitch and got past one opponent before launching a shot from 30 yards that left visiting keeper Guilherme with no chance.
But falling behind 1-0 did not prompt any change in strategy by the Russian side, which continued to put defense first.
The hosts made it 2-0 just two minutes into the second half, as Diego Costa was there to hammer in the rebound after Guilherme dealt with an initial shot by Antoine Griezmann.
Koke’s goal in the final minute of regulation with an assist from Juanfran boosted the winning margin to 3-0.
Atletico’s performance on Thursday is likely to reinforce its status as the favorite to win the 2017-2018 Europa League.