Dutch striker Memphis Depay shone in his first start for Atletico Madrid as he scored twice in a 6-1 thrashing of Sevilla, who was reduced to 10 men late on, in La Liga on Saturday.
Substitute Alvaro Morata also bagged a brace as Atletico seized the opportunity to go third after Real Sociedad drew at home 0-0 against lowly Cadiz on Friday, leapfrogging the Basque side in the standings and climbing to 45 points.
Sociedad is now fourth on 44 points, while holder Real Madrid is second on 52 points, seven behind leader Barcelona on 59 points, both with a game in hand.
Winless in its last three games, Sevilla is 16th on 25 points, only one point clear of the relegation zone.
Atletico delivered arguably its best showing of the season on a night it was celebrating Diego Simeone’s 613th game as its coach, surpassing club legend Luis Aragones (612) to become the manager with more games with the same team in the history of Spanish football.
Sevilla played a five-man defence but could not deal with the relentless intensity of Atletico who was led by an inspired pair in Depay and Antoine Griezmann.
The two connected twice in three minutes to give the hosts a two-goal lead before the half-hour mark.
Starting his first game for Atletico since arriving from Barcelona in January, Depay recovered the ball in midfield, gave it to Griezmann and ran up front to receive a long pass from the French forward before slotting past the goalkeeper in the 23rd minute.
Three minutes later, Depay was on the end of a clever combination between Griezmann and Marcos Llorente to unleash a thunderous strike into the upper left corner from just outside the box.
When Atletico was in full control, Youssef En Nesyri was quick enough to beat goalkeeper Jan Oblak inside the box and hit back for Sevilla from close range in the 39th.
But Atletico didn’t take its foot off the gas after the break and Griezmann scored the third goal with a brilliant shot from range.
“It was an important day for Simeone and I wanted it to be a magical day also for the fans and for my teammates,” Griezmann told Movistar Plus.
“When I saw the result from Real Sociedad on Friday I was nervous, I wanted to seize the opportunity to leapfrog them. I’m really happy that we did it.”
Yannick Carrasco extended Atletico’s advantage in the 69th minute, before Ivan Rakitic missed a penalty, hitting the post from the spot.
Substitute Morata in the 76th and 92nd minutes delivered the final blows to a hopeless Sevilla, who had Pape Alassane Gueye sent off in the 81st minute after receiving his second yellow card of the match.
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