Atletico advance despite Torres blank

Madrid, December 18

Atletico Madrid sealed their place in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey with a ninth consecutive win in all competitions thanks to Thomas Partey’s solitary goal against Catalan minnows Reus on Thursday.

Ghanaian midfielder Thomas struck his first goal for the club eight minutes after half-time to complete a 3-1 aggregate win for an Atletico side without the rested Diego Godin and Antoine Griezmann. Atletico are second favourites behind Barcelona to lift the Cup for an 11th time after Real Madrid’s embarrassing expulsion for fielding an ineligible player.

And Diego Simeone’s men were once again effective without shining on a bad night in front of goal for Fernando Torres. The former Chelsea striker has been searching for his 100th Atletico goal since September as he passed up three great chances in first-half. Torres fired straight at Edgar Badia at the near post before being denied by a brilliant save by the Reus ‘keeper with a towering header. And worse was to come for Torres when he fluffed an attempted backheel finish when clean through on goal. Atletico did finally make the breakthrough in some style when Thomas fired home from outside the box and the hosts comfortably sat on their lead in the final half hour.

La Liga high-flyers Celta Vigo also eased into the last 16 as Daniel Wass’ free-kick was enough to earn a 1-0 win over Almeria to seal the tie 4-1 on aggregate. Villarreal avoided an upset as goals from Manu Trigueros and Roberto Soldado turned around a 3-2 first leg deficit against second division Huesca. And Granada also squeezed through on away goals against lower league opposition in Leganes thanks to Youssef El Arabi’s winner.

All four sides join holders Barca, Sevilla, Espanyol, Real Betis, Deportivo La Coruna, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Eibar, Las Palmas, Rayo Vallecano, Mirandes and Cadiz in last 16.