Antoine Griezmann helps Atletico Madrid win to narrow gap at La Liga top to 6 points

Atletico Madrid and Alaves earned victories in La Liga on Saturday.

football Updated: Feb 10, 2018 23:29 IST
Agencies, Madrid
Antoine Griezmann,Atletico Madrid,La Liga
Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring their only goal against Malaga in La Liga on Saturday.(Reuters)

Antoine Griezmann should be firmly back in the good graces of Atletico Madrid fans after he fired them to within six points of La Liga leaders Barcelona with a 1-0 win over bottom club Malaga.

Griezmann had been jeered by Atletico fans for slowing play down instead of looking for another goaltowards the end of their 1-0 win over Valencia last time out.

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He reacted angrily to those jeers, but both he and the Atletico supporters had reason to celebrate less than a minute into Saturday’s contest at La Rosaleda.

Griezmann opened the scoring with a confident close-range finish, his fourth goal in five games, and it proved to be enough for Atletico to at least temporarily gain ground on title favourites Barca.

Malaga, who are seven points adrift of safety, had much the better of the second half but could not find an equaliser, with Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak rarely called into action.

Barca will be expected to stretch their advantage back to nine points against Getafe on Sunday, but it is now three wins in a row for Diego Simeone’s men, who head into the first leg of Thursday’s Europa League tie with Copenhagen with momentum.

Griezmann needed only 38 seconds to break the deadlock as he coolly lofted the ball over Roberto Jimenez at the near post after Saul’s effort from outside the box had deflected into his path.

The France international celebrated by running to the sideline and holding up an Atletico jersey adorned with the name of Nacho Barbera, a teenager who recently died following a cardiac arrest in a youth match.

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Diego Costa sent an ambitious volley well wide as Atletico pushed for a second, but they were almost pegged back as Brown Ideye headed into the side-netting from Roberto Rosales’ free-kick.

Costa was unable to find the target with a header from a corner as Roberto was caught in two minds as to whether to come and collect.

Malaga made an excellent start to the second half and Atletico were grateful to Jan Oblak for preserving their lead as he sprung to his right to turn Rosales’ excellent free-kick over.

That was as good as it got for Malaga, who were forced to finish the game with 10 men as substitute Mehdi Lacen was taken off on a stretcher with a head injury.

Atletico heldfirm with little difficulty, leaving themnow looking for a Barca slip-up to make a turnaround in the title race more likely.

Villarreal miss chance

Villarreal squandered an opportunity to climb above Real Madrid in La Liga, for a few hours at least, as they lost 2-1 at home to Alaves on Saturday.

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The visitors were seeking to continue their improvement since former Barcelona and Spain defender Abelardo was appointed coach in December. They went in front six minutes before half-time when Alfonso Pedraza returned the ball into the box and Rodrigo Ely nodded home.

Pedraza, who is on loan from Villarreal, missed a glorious chance to double the away side’s lead early in the second half. However, John Guidetti set up substitute Ibai Gomez to make it 2-0 in the 71st minute.

Carlos Bacca pulled one back for the hosts at the Estadio de la Ceramica with the aid of a huge deflection, but Villarreal could not find an equaliser, with Enes Unal hitting the bar late on.

Villarreal’s second straight defeat leaves them fifth in the table, two points behind Real Madrid in fourth, having played two games more.

Zinedine Zidane’s side entertain Real Sociedad later on Saturday.

Villarreal face Lyon in the Europa League next week.

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 23:29 IST