Diego Simeone returned to the Vicente Calderón dugout on Wednesday night and all was well again for last season's Champions League finalists Atlético Madrid. The Argentine was forced to sit in the stands as his side kicked-off their European campaign with a shock 3-2 defeat at Olympiakos last time out but he was back barking out instructions to his troops from the touchline as Atleti secured an impressive 1-0 victory over an unbeaten Juventus side in the Spanish capital.
Simeone had been hit with a one-match Uefa ban for his behaviour in last season's final, which Atleti cruelly lost 4-1 in extra-time against neighbours Real Madrid, and his visible absence from the Spanish champions' trip to Athens was apparent as they returned with a 3-2 defeat, conceding as many goals in one game as they did in their entire group stage just a year ago.
'Cholo', as he's affectionately known amongst his adoring public, had also been absent from the start of Atleti's domestic campaign following his antics in the Spanish Super Cup and he returned to the Calderón at the weekend to oversee his side ease to a 4-0 win against an in-form Sevilla side. The Simeone magic was back and working its magic on his team.
“My presence [on the sideline] is not the important thing,” Simeone said after the match. “It is the commitment of the players which determines the result.” That commitment, however, is only intensified when they see their manager, sporting his usual all-black attire, leading them from the sidelines. Simeone says it's all about the team but the team's success is down to him.
They certainly needed him back on Wednesday night. Not only had Atleti suffered a shock loss against Olympiakos but they faced a Juventus side that had raced out of the traps and their progression from the group stage looked in jeopardy just a year after they came within minutes of winning the competition.
The crucial victory was an impressive one, but it was also a typically Atleti one. The hosts did not overly impress and did not carve out a host of chances, but they stuck to their jobs, worked tirelessly, were tactically sound for the most part and defended resolutely. The Italian champions may have been without Andrea Pirlo but Los Colchoneros still kept out an attack led by an on-song Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente and supplemented by Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal.
In conceding just six goals up until last season's final, Atleti were a team built on a strong defence and they showcased a return to that against the side from Turin. “If we did not have too many shots at goal, it is down to the opponent too, you must give credit to Atletico's defence,” said Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri. Many knew how Atleti played last season but still few could come up with an answer.
Arda Turan scored the winner 16 minutes from time to keep his side's superb home record in European competition ticking over. Juanfran provided a low cross from the right and while it was just too fast for Mario Mandzukic to connect with, the Turkish international got on the end of it and ended Gianluigi Buffon's run of 614 minutes without conceding a goal. Juve had played six, won six, scored 12 and hadn't conceded one upon their arrival in the Spanish capital. Atleti had the key as they did against European giants such as AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea last season.
The result means Atleti have now won 18 of their last 20 home matches in all Uefa competitions, with their last defeat coming back in February 2013 when they fell to a 2-0 loss against Rubin Kazan. They won five and drew one in last season's competition and the Calderón is shaping up to be another tough place to visit for Europe's elite again this term. The fact that Juve only took one point from their three Champions League away games, which included a defeat in Madrid against Real, may have lingered in the heads of those players that remain.
Allegri also saw his terrible record against Spanish opposition extend to just one win in 13. AC Milan succumbed 4-1 in Atleti's back yard last season but that came after Allegri had been shown the door at the San Siro. Simeone had helped Juventus to the Serie A title in 2002 when he scored for Lazio in a 4-2 victory over Inter that helped the Bianconeri take top spot but he was in no mood for gifts this time.
Atleti needed the win after that defeat in Athens and the hosts, boosted by that 4-0 La Liga win over Sevilla, started well with Raul Garcia glancing a teasing Juanfran cross just wide of Buffon's goal.
Claudio Marchisio sent a long-range shot wide for the visitors five minutes later and Pogba also curled a good chance wide after Mandzukic had seen a long-range strike of his own palmed away by Buffon in a close-fought first half.
The visitors will have been the happier of the sides at the interval after enjoying plenty of possession without really testing Miguel Moya but the introduction of creative spark Antoine Griezmann eight minutes after the restart helped to swing things in Atleti's favour. The hosts had more threat about their attack and felt aggrieved when the officials waved away claims for a penalty for handball by Martin Caceres when he tried to clear a cross from Garcia.
Those grievances were not to last too long as Turan slid home Juanfran's cross to give his side a crucial three points. Tevez, as his countryman Simeone has planned, had been crowded out of the game and couldn't add to a tally that has already reached six in as many matches this season. Juventus had been thwarted. Both of these sides will still likely progress from the group but Atleti needed the result more than their visitors and they proved they will be a match for anyone on home soil again this season.Reuse content