Atletico thrash Sevilla, celebrate Simeone record in style
Atletico Madrid crushed Sevilla 6-1 on Saturday to move third in La Liga as Diego Simeone celebrated setting a new milestone as coach.
Memphis Depay struck twice for the hosts, with Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco adding to the lead, and Alvaro Morata adding a brace in a rout which affirmed Atletico's vast improvement in 2023.
Argentine coach Simeone overtook the late Luis Aragones as the coach in charge of Atletico for the most games, with this his 613rd at the helm of the Rojiblancos after taking charge in 2011.
Simeone has helped Atletico win La Liga twice and the Copa del Rey once, establishing them as a team capable of battling with giants Real Madrid and Barcelona for domestic honours, as well as two Europa Leagues.
His team have misfired this season, suffering a group stage exit in Europe and not joining the title race, but after the World Cup they have found their groove.
Having trailed Real Sociedad since November, they capitalised on the Basque side's draw on Friday against Cadiz to go a point above them and claim third place.
Griezmann sprinted over to celebrate his goal with Simeone on the touchline and said he had hoped for a performance of this calibre.
"What is an important day for him, is an important day for me," Griezmann told Movistar.
"I really wanted this game to be magical for him and the fans, because we deserve it.
"Since the World Cup we've been in an incredible dynamic, (and may it) continue like this."
The thrashing left Jorge Sampaoli's Sevilla 16th, a point above the relegation zone, and they could be sucked into it on Sunday.
"We played very badly," Sevilla defender Marcos Acuna told Movistar.
"It goes beyond all limits. We played very badly and that's why we've been beaten."
Simeone handed Depay his first start since his January switch from Barcelona, and the Dutchman should have fired Atletico ahead early on.
Racing on to a fine Thomas Lemar pass, Depay took a poor touch and wasted the opportunity, with only Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to beat.
Next time, though, he made no mistake, with Griezmann threading a pass through for the forward, who slotted between Bounou's legs to open the scoring after 23 minutes.
Depay hit his second three minutes later, driving a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box to double Atletico's lead.
Sevilla pulled one back before half-time out of the blue, with Pape Gueye showing great determination to cross for Youssef En-Nesyri, who finished clinically from close range.
- Raining goals -
Griezmann restored Atletico's cushion early in the second half with a spectacular long-range strike, his 150th goal for the club.
Carrasco converted the fourth at the back post with Sevilla's defence all at sea, after youngster Pablo Barrios deflected the ball into his path.
Ivan Rakitic hit the post with a penalty after Gueye was fouled and Atletico made him pay by quickly finding the fifth, with Morata netting at the second attempt after a fine move with Griezmann heavily involved again.
Gueye was harshly sent off for a second yellow card to make Sevilla's evening even worse -- they are already without suspended midfielder Fernando Reges.
Morata rattled home his second in stoppage time to complete the rout and give Simeone a selection headache next weekend at Girona.
There are mounting rumours this may prove to be Simeone's last season at Atletico, but if it is, the coach is determined to go out on a high, at least in terms of performances if not silverware.
"Obviously you can't imagine an Atletico Madrid without 'Cholo'. If I'm not wrong he's been at the club for 11 years," said Atletico midfielder Koke.
"When he came, he brought a clear idea and change of mentality, he united everyone and he gave the club the stability it needed.
"This is a night that he will not forget, and now I'm sure he'll already be thinking about the game against Girona (next weekend)."