BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — It was a modest win over a tiny rival but coach Diego Simeone will be relieved to at least avoid more embarrassment in the Copa del Rey before Atlético Madrid tries to regroup during the World Cup break.
Atlético ended a five-game winless run after Ángel Correa and João Félix scored to beat fifth-tier Almazán 2-0 in the first round of the Spanish cup on Saturday.
Simeone will now have six weeks to fix his team — which is enduring one of its worst seasons since the Argentine took charge more than a decade ago — before club play resumes in late December. Atlético is in fifth place in the Spanish league and 13 points behind leader Barcelona and completely out of European competitions after it finished last in its Champions League group.
Correa opened the scoring in the 35th when he finished off a shot by Félix that goalkeeper Alberto González had blocked.
Félix fired in a second goal in the 63rd to put it beyond any doubt.
Atlético had been upset by lower-tier opponents in two of the last three seasons, and Simeone did not water down his team. Portugal’s Félix, France’s Antoine Griezmann, Spain’s Marcos Llorente and Koke Resurrección, Argentina’s Nahuel Molina and Belgium’s Axel Witsel all started. José Giménez of Uruguay and Rodrigo de Paul of Argentina went on as substitutes at the start of the second half.
Almazán, a club from a small town of 5,000 residents in a sparsely populated area of central-northern Spain, hosted the match half an hour away at a borrowed stadium in the provincial capital of Soria. The list of day jobs for Almazán’s players included a shepherd, a woodcutter, a chicken breeder, a singer and a tai chi instructor.
Villarreal had the biggest win of the night, thumping sixth-tier Santa Amalia 9-0, while Mallorca won at Autol 6-0.
Elche, which is in last place and winless in the Spanish league after 14 rounds, got its first victory of the season after beating Alcora 3-0.
Osasuna, Espanyol and Valladolid also won against lower-tier opponents.
Sunday's Copa del Rey games will be the last matches in Spain before the World Cup.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press