Club Atlético de Madrid made a stuttering start to their UEFA Europa League defence with a 1-0 loss to Aris Thessaloniki FC.
The Greek side may have won, but it was a Spanish player who made the difference at the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium, Javito's superb strike just before the hour earning Aris the points. It maintains Aris's proud record of never having lost at home in Europe – a run now up to 22 games – and gives them an early advantage in Group B.
In a tetchy first half punctuated by bookings, neither team looked like breaking the deadlock with the hosts coming closest from the odd set piece. Diego Forlán scored Atlético's winning goal in the final, but he was rarely involved, firing wide from long range in the 23rd minute.
Following the lethargy of the opening period, the tempo could only increase and Aris's Ricardo Faty was the first to up the ante, letting fly to get David de Gea scrambling across his goal. Atlético were looking a distinctly more potent proposition too, but in the 59th minute they were behind. Javito gambled on Carlos Ruiz's flick and, running on to the ball at an angle, the 26-year-old took it on his chest before hitting a searing left-footed shot across De Gea and into the corner.
Ten minutes later it could have been two as home captain Sergio Koke hit the post following a mistake from De Gea and Ruiz's follow-up was blocked. Atlético only began to apply serious pressure late on and substitute Diego passed up their best two chances to grab a point – a stooping header beaten away by goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis before he nodded over 60 seconds later.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.