Matias Kranevitter makes solid Atleti debut, Fernando Torres anonymous
Once again Diego Simeone's substitutions came to Atletico Madrid's rescue as they battled back to secure a 1-1 draw away to Rayo Vallecano in the first leg of their last 16 Copa del Rey tie.
In a much-changed XI from the weekend's 1-0 victory over Levante, Simeone handed debuts to the new Argentine midfield duo of Augusto Fernandez and Matias Kranevitter, however it was a pair of substitutes who helped drag Los Colchoneros back into the game after Nacho opened the scoring for the hosts.
The game being changed from the sidelines is becoming a familiar theme for Los Rojiblancos, who for the third game in a row saw fresh legs makes the difference. Luciano Vietto showed sublime skill to control a long ball and beat his man before feeding fellow replacement Saul Niguez, who slotted home.
Atleti had chances to win it late on, however will be confident they can get the job done next week at the Vicente Calderon. With Simeone possessing the magic touch from the bench as of late, you would say it is a given.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Miguel Angel Moya, 6 -- Made a decent save from an early free kick and could do nothing about the goal. Claimed a couple of high balls into the box with ease and is a top-notch backup for Jan Oblak.
DF Jesus Gamez, 6 -- Used his long throw to good effect as an attacking weapon. Was often pinned back by Rayo's free-spirited attackers, however did his job well enough in the backline.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 -- The junior partner of the new centre-back pairing, but a very mature performance from the Uruguayan who was solid as a rock. Showed his strength in defence with a couple of thunderous tackles and impressively shielded the ball out on a few occasions, even managing to complete an elaborate back-heeled clearance after the break. Went close twice at the other end from set pieces, too.
DF Stefan Savic, 6 -- Did not look as sure as he has done when playing next to Diego Godin. A bit tentative in the tackle and got in Gimenez's way when the youngster was well positioned with a header.
DF Guilherme Siqueira, 5 -- A game in which the Brazilian showed the good, the bad and the ugly. Gave away a silly free-kick early into the game on the edge of box and got caught dallying on the ball in the move that ultimately led to Rayo's opener. Put in a couple of very dangerous crosses on the second-half that Fernando Torres never looked interested in getting on the end of, but his night took a comical turn when he fired an effort towards the corner flag.
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MF Augusto Fernandez, 5 -- Not the debut the new signing would have envisaged. Evident he has only had a couple of training sessions with his new teammates and needs time to understand what Simeone is asking of him.
MF Matias Kranevitter, 7 -- A very promising first outing from the new boy. Looked more comfortable once Augusto had been hooked, putting in a combative display. Showed his technical gifts as he played a splendid cross field ball to Vietto as the Argentines combined to create the equaliser.
MF Thomas Partey, 6 -- The hero last time out, Thomas had a mixed night. It was his stray pass straight to Nacho, who fired home a rocket of a shot that led to the opener, however he also produced a few moments of magic in the middle of the park. Like Kranevitter, looked more comfortable once Augusto had gone off.
FW Oliver Torres, 5 -- Peripheral. Played out of position wide in a front three, he never really got on the same wavelength as namesake Fernando, however with El Nino's impression at playing the ultimate 'false 9' role (and not in a good way), you can hardly blame him. Needs a run of games to recapture his form.
FW Yannick Carrasco, 6 -- The Belgium international was a constant threat with his very direct running. His pace caused a lot of problems for Rayo's fullbacks and he was dragged back by his shirt on more than one occasion. His set piece delivery was decent all evening and he might have scored late on when one-on-one with Juan Carlos. Needs to work on his final ball from open play, however.
FW Fernando Torres, 4 -- Invisible. Goal 100 looks further away than ever.
Saul Niguez (for Oliver Torres), 7 -- Unperturbed by the arrival of the Argentine midfield duo, Saul is upping his game. Came off the bench to produce a top finish with his weaker right foot against his old club. Conducted a now-customary 'non-celebration celebration' against the club he spent a season with on loan two years ago.
Luciano Vietto (for Augusto Fernandez), 7 -- Excellent in the build-up for the goal, controlling Kranevitter's ball with his chest, beating defender and feeding Saul. Was then denied by the goalkeeper, who tipped his superb volleyed effort onto the post, with 10 to go as he looked much more threatening in his 35 minutes than Torres did in his 75.
Jackson Martinez (for Fernando Torres), NR -- On for the final 15 minutes and went close with a header from a corner.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.