MADRID (Reuters) – Atletico Madrid recovered from a goal down to secure a 2-1 victory at Reus Deportiu in the last 32 of the King’s Cup on Tuesday and avoid an embarrassing first-leg reverse against the third-tier minnows from Catalonia.
Reus, who play in the regional “Segunda B” division, took a surprise lead on the half-hour at their tiny Estadi Municipal stadium when a howler by Atletico defender Lucas Hernandez let Fran Carbia in to clip the ball past keeper Miguel Angel Moya.
A second-string Atletico side were struggling to control the game against their fired-up opponents but Luciano Vietto was left unmarked to nod an equaliser in the 37th minute.
Saul Niguez put the visitors in front when he headed home Koke’s corner in the 63rd to give Atletico a clear advantage for the second leg at the Calderon in Madrid in two weeks.
“It’s a tough place to play and they are strong here where they haven’t lost for a year,” Argentine striker Vietto said in an interview with Spanish television.
“The return is going to be a similar match to today’s. They will give their all to turn the tie around and we will do our best to get through to the next stage.”
Critics say the King’s Cup lacks the romance of similar competitions in other countries as La Liga teams generally play the second leg at home if they are facing lower league opposition in the early rounds.
That makes a genuinely surprising act of giant killing highly unlikely, although it happened back in 2009 when Alcorcon, who were in the third tier at the time, humbled Real Madrid 4-1 on aggregate in the last 32.
Holders and record winners Barcelona can secure their place in the last 16 when they host third-tier Villanovense for their second leg on Wednesday.
The tie has been brought forward due to the Spanish and European champions’ participation in the Club World Cup later this month. Last month’s first leg at Villanovense was 0-0.
All other first leg ties are being played this week, including Real Madrid’s trip to third-tier Cadiz on Wednesday and Thursday’s game between last season’s beaten finalists Athletic Bilbao and RB Linense, also of the third tier.
In Tuesday’s other first leg, second-division Leganes beat La Liga side Granada, who had midfielder Ruben Perez sent off in the first half, 2-1.
(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)