COPENHAGEN (DENMARK): Atletico Madrid got its Europa League campaign off to a strong start here, shaking off an early goal before unleashing its offensive firepower in a 4-1 victory over FC Copenhagen.
Both Atletico manager Diego Simeone and his players had said prior to the first-leg match at Parken Stadium that they had put their disappointing Champions League group-stage exit behind them and were taking their participation in Europe's secondary club football tournament very seriously, reports Efe.
That mindset was on display from the outset as the Colchoneros created four chances on Copenhagen's goal in the game's first quarter of an hour, including a one-on-one opportunity that French star Antoine Griezmann failed to convert against Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen on Thursday.
Ironically though, it was the host side that opened the scoring in the 15th minute when Viktor Fischer expertly used his heel to redirect a shot on goal past Atleti netminder Miguel Angel Moya and into the back of the net.
Atletico was unfazed by the setback though and needed just over five minutes to equalise and slightly more than 20 minutes to grab the lead.
The visitors' first goal came in the 21st minute on a header by Saul Ñiguez off a pass from Griezmann, while Lucas Hernandez set up French striker Kevin Gameiro for a goal inside the area in minute 37.
With a light snow falling, Atletico sought to deliver the decisive blow after the intermission, but two shots from Angel Correa and Griezmann missed their mark.
But the visitors' skill eventually proved too much for Copenhagen's defense, with Griezmann making it 3-1 in the 71st minute and Vitolo finishing off the scoring with a strike in the 77th minute.
With a three-goal lead and four away goals in their pocket, the Colchoneros have virtually booked their place in the Europa League round of 16.
They will still need to take care of business on the field, however, when these two teams meet again in the second leg on February 22 at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the Spanish capital.