MADRID: Atletico may need time to adjust after a summer of change but even this early in the season old problems are casting doubts over their Spanish title challenge.  After 77 attritional minutes at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday, Alvaro Morata darted to the near post and headed in Renan Lodi’s cross for a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League that all but secured qualification. 

After the game, Morata delivered a firm response to those criticising the team and their coach, Diego Simeone. 

“People on the outside say we are going through a bad time,” said Morata, who arrived on loan in the summer. “But in La Liga we are three points off the top and in the Champions League we have seven points from three games. If this is a bad time, I wish all the bad times were like this.” 

Yet there was enough in Morata’s celebration, a raging run down the sideline to the bench, where he hugged Koke, who had just been whistled by the frustrated home fans, to suggest this was a win the players needed too. 

Simeone is almost beyond reproach at Atletico, a club he led to the title in 2014 and where he has performed miracles on a budget roughly half that of Barcelona and Real Madrid. 

When Koke was jeered as he trudged off, Simeone flapped his arms in disgust, demanding the fans applaud instead. Most duly did. – AFP