MADRID: Diego Simeone joined football’s coaching elite by building rock-hard defenses that grind out victories with the bare minimum of flash up front.

But now, with the greatest wealth of attacking talent in his decade in charge of Atletico Madrid, the Argentine is struggling to make that flash up front click.

Joao Felix was sent off and Antoine Griezmann failed to fire again as Atletico were held to a second straight scoreless draw at home on Saturday after they were stymied by Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.

Atletico, who have not scored more than two goals in any of their six games this season, were also held to 0-0 by Porto at home in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.

“I have absolute confidence in the team we have and we are going to work to get the best out of those names and to get what we always want, which is goals,” said Simeone.

Griezmann started ahead of Luis Suarez but was replaced by the Uruguayan after 55 minutes at the Wanda Metropolitano without registering a shot on target.

Felix came on too as Atletico chased a winner, only to be shown a second yellow card for dissent, the 21-year-old lashing the ball into the crowd in frustration. The ball hit an Atletico supporter, who did not appear seriously hurt but left the stadium.

La Liga’s reigning champions have now drawn two and won three of their opening five games while Athletic continue their impressive start under Marcelino Garcia Toral, whose side also drew with Barcelona last month.

They have nine points, two fewer than their opponents.

Former Atletico star Radamel Falcao enjoyed a perfect debut for Rayo Vallecano, scoring 10 minutes after going on as a late substitute to complete a 3-0 win over Getafe in a derby between the Spanish capitals two more modest clubs.

The veteran striker went on as a 71st-minute substitute with Rayo ahead 1-0. Midfielder Pathe Cisse doubled the lead shortly before he set up Falcao with a pass for the Colombian to score from an angle.

The 35-year-old Falcao signed with Rayo this month as a free agent. Rayo are back in Spain’s top flight after being promoted last term and have made an encouraging start, their win over Getafe giving them seven points from their first five games.

Javier Pastore, formerly of Paris St Germain and Roma, debuted for Elche as a substitute as they drew at home with Levante 1-1.

Osasuna continued their strong start and moved into sixth place after David Garca and Roberto Torres scored in a 2-0 win at pointless Alaves.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2021

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