Atletico show classic grit in triumphant start to new era

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Atletico Madrid have a shiny new home, the Wanda Metropolitano, which they inaugurated with much fanfare on Saturday, but beneath it all they showed they are still the same side with a gritty 1-0 win over Malaga.

Diego Simeone’s team have built their success over the past five years on narrow victories, impressive defensive performances and occasional flair, and that is precisely what they delivered for nearly 68,000 fans at a packed stadium.

Angel Correa produced the magic to beat his man and tee up striker Antoine Griezmann, who fired home the only goal in the 61st minute to seal the win, which takes Atletico third in La Liga.

“On a personal level I’m proud to write my name in the history of the club and the stadium,” Griezmann told reporters.

“We were really looking forward to playing here, and the fans were the 12th man today. For me this is the best stadium to play at, not just as it is my club, although you have to recognize that.”

Atletico supporters were in good voice as they celebrated their new home in the north-east of the city and although the pain of leaving the Vicente Calderon will take time to heal, the Metropolitano era started perfectly.

As well as an opening ceremony which paid tribute to the club’s former homes and included parachutists delivering the match ball and Atletico and Spain flags, a vibrant firework display lit the sky up in red and white.

“As a player and coach, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said coach Simeone of the reception his team were given. “Sincerely, I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.

“It was emotional and surely spectacular for the people that were watching on television.”

The King of Spain, Felipe VI, attended, while striker Fernando Torres and Jose Eulogio Garate, who played for the club between 1966 and 1977, took the honorary kickoff before the game, representing three generations of players.

Torres was brought on as a substitute to a huge ovation, the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker still a huge fan favorite at Atletico.

“I loved to see the fans happy, I loved hearing our club anthem in the new stadium, and seeing different generations of Atletico fans enjoying it all together,” Torres said.