Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann credited coach Diego Simeone’s half-time chat with sparking the team’s convincing second half showing in Sunday afternoon’s 3-0 La Liga victory at home to Las Palmas.
A low-key first 45 minutes saw Griezmann come closest to breaking the deadlock with a spectacular back-flick, as Diego Simeone’s side looked to be still suffering a hangover from their midweek Copa del Rey exit at Sevilla.
But Atletico were much better after the break, and on the hour mark Griezmann opened the scoring by running onto a Juanfran pass in behind and calmly clipping the ball past Las Palmas goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola.
Two more counter-attack goals made the points safe for Simeone’s side, with Fernando Torres scoring a fine solo effort, and Yannick Carrasco setting up fellow sub Thomas Partey for 3-0.
After a victory which consolidated Atletico’s hold on second place in the table, although well behind runaway leaders Barcelona, the rojiblanco No. 7 told BeIn Sports that a pep-talk from Simeone in the dressing room at half-time had pushed the players into action.
“The first half was not so good, but the coach [Simeone] knew what to say at the break,” Simeone said. “We reacted, pressuring up high, and had many chances. We scored three goals, and didn’t concede any. So it was perfect.”
Griezmann also hit the post with an excellent chip during his side’s second-half domination, and said he was feeling positive at the moment having scored in each of his past three games in all competitions.
“I am feeling good, I have started the year well,” he said. “I hope I can keep going like this, with goals, assists and hard work.”
Simeone himself said that his team had missed injured forwards Diego Costa and Kevin Gameiro during the first half.
“It was not an easy game for the start, for the circumstances, and the absence of Gameiro and Costa,” the Argentine said. “The team resolved again a difficult moment. That is what I am taking from today’s game. We are coming back from a very hard blow going out of the Copa del Rey.
“We are rebuilding continually, we could not sign last summer, now we have had to let some players leave this January. It has been like that all year.”
Simeone said that the surprise replacement of playmaker Koke with winger Yannick Carrasco at half-time had been a tactical switch.
“In the first half we did not have enough pace in our play, although we made chances,” he said. “With Carrasco we had something different. We believed that was the best for the team.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan