Barcelona: Diego Simeone reached a new milestone for coaching longevity after overseeing a club-record 613th match for Atletico Madrid.
And his players gave him every reason to keep on going after putting on their best attacking display of the season in a 6-1 rout of Sevilla. The big win lifted Atletico above Real Sociedad and into third place in the Spanish league.
Simeone surpassed the previous mark of 612 games coached by Luis Aragonés. Since the former Atletico midfielder took over as coach in December 2011, Atletico has won two Spanish league titles, two Europa League crowns, a Copa del Rey trophy, and reached a pair of Champions League finals.
Simeone changed the fate of the club, turning it from an erratic team into a fierce competitor that could challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for titles thanks to its defense and his disciplined approach.
“From my first day as a player here I knew that this was a different club. . . . And I knew that I would end up coaching here,” Simeone said looking back on his start.
He also revealed one of the elements of his success: “You always know that they can fire you tomorrow, and that is what keeps you focused on the game at hand.”
Dressed in his customary all-black outfit, Simeone received a standing ovation before kickoff when he was presented with a commemorative shirt with the number 613 and “Legend Simeone” in Spanish.
He then spent the match as he always has for the past decade, stalking the coaching box, pumping his fists to rev up the crowd, and relishing his team’s demolition of Sevilla.
“We can’t imagine an Atletico without ‘Cholo,’” Atletico’s Koke Resurrección said, using his coach’s nickname.
“He has been with us over 11 years now. When he arrived he had a clear idea and changed our mentality, unified and strengthened the club. I hope he won’t forget this night after the way we played.”
Memphis Depay scored twice in his first start since joining Atletico from Barcelona in January after his playing time dwindled following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski to Camp Nou.
The Netherlands striker opened from a pass by Antoine Griezmann in the 23rd and added the second from outside the area three minutes later.
Youssef En-Nesyri pulled one back after Pape Gueye chased down a ball and crossed it for his striker against the flow of play in the 39th, but Griezmann restored the two-goal cushion in the 53rd with an exquisite shot from long range. Yannick Carraso made it four in the 69th with Sevilla in disarray.
Gueye again tried to get Sevilla back in the match after he was fouled by Marcos Llorente in the box, only for Ivan Rakitic to send the penalty kick off the post.
Álvaro Morata, who replaced Depay, tacked on two goals, one coming after Sevilla was left with 10 men when Gueye was sent off for a second booking in the 80th.
“We were not up to the task today,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said after seeing his team sink to one point above the relegation zone. “We are in a bad rut. Rivals are punishing us. And in a game like this against talented opponents it is very tough.”
Former Tottenham defender Matt Doherty debuted for Atletico as a late substitute after signing for the club in January.
VAR TO THE RESCUE
Last-placed Elche won at Mallorca 1-0 after the referee overturned a last-gasp goal by the host following a video review.
Elche’s second win in 24 rounds still left it 13 points from salvation.
Samuel Chukwueze set up two late goals by Gerard Moreno and José Morales to help Villarreal win at Almeria 2-0 and move into sixth place.
Enes Unal scored twice to help Getafe beat Girona 3-2 and escape the drop zone.