PAMPLONA: Portugal youngster Joao Felix scored twice as Atletico Madrid moved into the Champions League places with a 5-0 La Liga thrashing of Osasuna on Wednesday. Felix, 20, was making his first appearance since the Spanish top-flight returned from its coronavirus hiatus having been suspended for the weekend’s draw at Athletic Bilbao and had been suffering from an ankle sprain since May. “I felt good, coming back from injury after three months without playing and scoring two goals is very good for me,” Felix told broadcaster Movistar.
The northerners remain in 11th after the defeat with an outside chance of making the Europa League but are also 10 points away from the relegation zone. The hosts’ coach Jagoba Arrasate was without captain Oier and Adrian Lopez who scored the equalizer at high-flying Real Sociedad, who can go back above Atltetico on Thursday with a win at Alaves. The visitors’ coach Diego Simeone made four changes from Sunday’s match in Bilbao including handing Felix, who joined the side from Benfica for 126 million euros ($141 million) last summer, a start alongside Diego Costa in attack.
Felix will return to the Portugese capital in August as UEFA announced the Champions League will be completed in Lisbon with a ‘final eight’ format after Atleti knocked holders Liverpool out of the competition in March. Left-back Renan Lodi had the best of the early chances as his whipped effort in the eighth minute was straight at goalkeeper Ruben Martinez. Costa’s claims for a penalty where ignored despite the former Chelsea striker complaining he had been held back in attempting to reach Lodi’s effort.
Felix opened the scoring 20 minutes later after Lodi found space again down the left flank. Lodi played the ball back to Saul Niguez in the box, his shot was deflected to Felix’s path who smashed the ball to the top corner. The hosts’ best chance of an equalizer came six minutes before the break but David Garcia’s long-range shot could only hit the advertising boards. Felix doubled his account 10 minutes into the second half. Costa was fed the ball in the area and he squared it to Felix who side-footed home with ease for his eighth goal of the campaign in all competitions.
Felix was substituted on the 69-minute mark as Simeone sent on holding midfielder Thomas Partey, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal. Despite Felix leaving the field his side made sure of three points as Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata and Yannick Carrasco scored in the final 11 minutes. The away side’s Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak became the first non-Spaniard to reach 100 La Liga clean sheets with his performance. Atleti host Real Valladolid on Saturday and Osasuna travel to Valencia on Sunday. —AFP