The second verse of Atlético Madrid’s club anthem begins as such: “I’m going to the Manzanares, to the Vicente Calderón stadium.” There will be no more trekking to the river’s edge to watch Atlético play, but Diego Simeone’s men managed to bid a fond farewell to their 50-year-old ground with a stylish 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Fernando Torres scored twice in the first 15 minutes, and Ángel Correa finished off a resilient Athletic Club in the dying moments as Atlético ended the 2016-17 season with a win at a rollicking Calderón.
Facing a litany of injuries and suspensions in defense, Simeone was forced to get creative with his team selection for this final match of the season. Saúl Ñíguez moved back into defense for the first time in more than a year, and he was joined by canteranos Thomas Partey (right back) and Lucas Hernández (center back) in the back four. The other notable change made by Simeone was a sentimental one, as Tiago, in his final appearance for Atlético, started in midfield and took the captain’s band for the first time in three years.
With such a makeshift side, you would not have been faulted for thinking that Atlético would struggle a bit against an Athletic side looking to clinch a place in next season’s Europa League. But this makeshift side still included Antoine Griezmann, and the Frenchman was instrumental in crafting Atleti’s opener.
Griezmann and Torres linked up for the opening goal on eight minutes as the former delivered a headed assist – created for him by a patented Tiago long ball – for the latter to slot in for his seventh league goal. And just three minutes later, El Niño made it a double feature, as he finished off a quick counterattack with an acrobatic finish. Torres picked up a Hollywood long ball from the foot of Yannick Carrasco and…