Atletico Madrid slide past Elche and into the Champions League

Elche 0-2 Atletico Madrid

At the start of this match, both of these teams were on the brink of their season objectives. By the end, both were celebrating.

Even though there was still technically things to play for, both teams and fans comported themselves with the sort of relaxation that is only present in a football stadium at the end of a season.

Elche were probably more enterprising than they would have been and nearly got reward for it through a Lucas Boye header, which went narrowly over. A shouting match between Renan Lodi and Jan Oblak was the highest point of tension, as the two accused each other for a season full of problems. It was Lodi who helped draw first blood however, latching onto an Antoine Griezmann ball over the top of the defence. His square ball was met first by Matheus Cunha and second by the net.

Cunha could have doubled the lead when he was sent clear on goal, but couldn’t beat Edgar Badia this time. Half-time came and went and at this point Elche knew they were safe as a result of Mallorca’s draw in Seville.

Atletico didn’t stop coming forward but did take a step back and it gave them extra space to work with. The match entered a deeper state of comfort for Diego Simeone after he brought Rodrigo de Paul on. The Argentine weaved a pattern through the Elche defence with Griezmann, ending in a simple finish for his second La Liga goal.

Elche came forward in a jolly sort of fashion in the closing stages and weren’t without threat, but neither were they desperate. They will play in the top division for the third year in a row for the first time since the 1970s.

Atletico wrapped up the win with uncharacteristic fuss and with it, Champions League qualification. For the tenth year in a row, Atleti will be competing with Europe’s elite – not to be sniffed at.

It’s an achievement of relief more than anything, but an achievement nonetheless after a tricky year for Diego Simeone.

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