La Liga - Hercules hammer woeful Atletico
A first-half blitz saw Hercules hand out a 4-1 La Liga thrashing to an abject Atletico Madrid side in Alicante.
Promoted side Hercules, who dealt a shock defeat to Barcelona earlier in the season, totally overran their guests in the opening 45 minutes, exploiting dreadful marking and positional play as Tote, Nelson Valdez, Olivier Thomert and David Trezeguet put them 4-0 up at the break.
Atletico were fractionally the better side in the second half and scored a late consolation when Jose Antonio Reyes pounced on an error from substitute Rufete, but it was a match long-lost by the Champions League hopefuls.
The defeat leaves Quique Sanchez Flores's side seven points off the top four, while Hercules - missing Royston Drenthe, who was disciplined after refusing to train when his wages were not paid - rise to 11th.
Since a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in November, the hosts have won four on the trot at home to pull away from the drop zone and on Monday night's performance it was easy to see why.
With Trezeguet and Valdez combining guile and power to dominate Atletico's shell-shocked defence, the midfield passed rings around Los Rojiblancos and took an early lead when Spanish winger Tote netted from close range, although David De Gea in goal should have kept it out.
That was on 11 minutes and, after Valdez nodded wide soon afterwards, Hercules doubled their lead midway through the half and in some style.
With Atletico left-back Filipe Luis caught napping, Valdez had time and space on the edge of the box but still had it all to do when he sent a wonderful curling effort beyond David De Gea into the top left.
Just after the half hour a delirious home crowd celebrated a third when Frenchman Thomert arrived in the box, unmarked by the slack Alvaro Dominguez and Diego Godin, to head powerfully into the bottom right.
If that was not enough for the hapless Europa League holders, Trezeguet put the tie to bed with a cool finish just before half-time, found by a superb Valdez pass but assisted by more shambolic defending that left the veteran - probably the slowest player on the pitch - with acres of space to pick his spot.
Atleti had a bit more drive about them in the second half, with former Arsenal midfielder Fran Merida a greater presence in midfield and putting two good shots just wide, while an often isolated Sergio Aguero hit the woodwork from range and forced a good save from Jose Calatayud.
Hercules showed their danger on the break though as Valdez rattled the woodwork and substitute Sendoa Agirre - on for the injured Thomert - drew a carbon copy of Robert Green's World Cup howler from De Gea as his daisy cutter was fumbled by the Spain hopeful - luckily for De Gea, it trickled just wide.
Diego Costa fired one just wide for the visitors before, in the penultimate minute, Rufete gave the ball away and Reyes wriggled clear before drilling a sharp low finish past Calatayud.
But it was little consolation for Flores, who has seen his side lose seven of 18 games before the halfway point of the Liga season while crashing out of the Europa League at the group stage.
For ambitious but cash-strapped Hercules, meanwhile, the on-pitch fairytale continues despite the worry that they may have over-reached off it.