Atletico Madrid 2-1 Deportivo Alaves: Saul & Costa strengthen grip on third

By Sports Desk June 27, 2020

Atletico Madrid took a big step towards sealing Champions League qualification as they defeated Deportivo Alaves in a 2-1 LaLiga win at Wanda Metropolitano.

After a low-key start to Saturday's contest, a Saul Niguez header just before the hour mark put the hosts in front.

Two Atleti substitutes played a part in the second as Diego Costa converted a penalty won by Marcos Llorente to wrap up what ultimately proved to be a comfortable victory for Diego Simeone's side.

Joselu scored a stoppage-time penalty for the visitors, but Atletico are now four points clear of Sevilla in fourth and have opened up a superb nine-point cushion over Getafe in fifth.

Alvaro Morata sent an early header just wide, shortly before his flick-on to fellow forward Joao Felix saw the Portugal international send an impressive acrobatic effort narrowly off target.

Jose Maria Gimenez put a free header over from 12 yards and, despite their opponents defending deeply, it was Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak who had the only first-half save to make from Aleix Vidal.

Diego Simeone brought on Costa and Llorente early in the second half as he attempted to inject life into the hosts and the latter made an instant impression, winning a free-kick down the right.

Kieran Trippier sent in a fine delivery and the onrushing Saul converted with a thumping header from six yards for his fourth goal of season, keeper Fernando Pacheco getting a hand to it but unable to make the save.

Alaves almost levelled when a powerful aerial effort from Oliver Burke flew inches wide, but Atleti soon threatened at the other end when Llorente's long-range effort forced Pacheco to parry.

Llorente then showed superb pace and skill down the right before drawing a foul from Ruben Duarte, with Costa sending Pacheco the wrong way from the spot 17 minutes from time.

Three minutes into added time, Joselu sent a fine penalty into the top corner after Koke was penalised for handball, but it was too late for the visitors to recover.


What does it mean? Atletico impressing since lockdown

Atletico took the chance to extend their advantage over Sevilla, who could only draw with Real Valladolid on Friday, and now look almost certain to claim a Champions League spot.

They have impressed since LaLiga resumed after the coronavirus-enforced break – having drawn their first game back, they have won four straight games, with only the late spot-kick denying them a fourth straight clean sheet.

Llorente lifts Atletico

Former Real Madrid midfielder Llorente changed the game when he came on, winning the free-kick and penalty that led to each goal, as well as testing Pacheco with a rasping drive.

Correa struggles to make an impact

Angel Correa only had one blocked shot and 10 completed passes to show for his 57 minutes on the pitch, though he was not the only one to blame for a sluggish Atletico start.

What's next?

Atletico needed points in this match as their next one is a huge test away to Barcelona on Tuesday. Alaves, meanwhile, are at home to Granada a day later as they bid to halt a run of three straight defeats.

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    ROUND-UP

    - Contracted at Manchester City until 2021, Sergio Aguero may yet stay at the Etihad Stadium a little longer. The Mirror reports City have not ruled out giving the star forward, 32, a one-year extension.

    - With Neymar repeatedly linked with a return to Barcelona, it seems the LaLiga giants are wanting to distance themselves from the Paris Saint-Germain star. Marca says Barca are keen to see the rumours of a potential return for Neymar stop.

    - Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona apparently have interest in two players from Tottenham. The Daily Star says Barca want Ryan Sessegnon and Tanguy Ndombele. However, it reports Spurs will reject all offers for Sessegnon this close season.

    - Philippe Coutinho's future remains unclear. Mundo Deportivo reports the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona until the end of the season, will not decide his future until after the Champions League next month.

    - Plenty of talk continues to surround Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is coming out of contract at the Premier League club next year. The Daily Star reports the forward will sign a contract extension with Arsenal – if no other club makes an official approach.

    - After just two goals in 25 games for Real Madrid, Luka Jovic seems set for an exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, Juventus, Inter, Chelsea, Leicester City, Milan and Napoli are all considering moves for the forward.

  • Simeone seeking Atletico improvement despite Champions League qualification Simeone seeking Atletico improvement despite Champions League qualification

    Diego Simeone is looking for improvement from Atletico Madrid despite securing Champions League qualification once more.

    A 74th-minute goal from Diego Costa saw 10-man Atletico overcome Real Betis 1-0 on Saturday to qualify for the Champions League for an eighth straight season.

    Atletico had only played in Europe's top club competitions eight times in total before qualifying for the 2013-14 Champions League.

    But head coach Simeone is refusing to rest, eager for Atletico to continue growing.

    "I don't stop to analyse what is being done," he told a news conference, via AS.

    "We always seek to improve and grow and the only way is to give the club the possibility with our work on the field that they can manage the tremendous growth of the club in these years.

    "If there was a moment to qualify for the Champions League as it was, it was what happened in the match, because this is us.

    "They hit us and we got up and we always compete and we will continue to compete, having all the energy so that all four legs – fans, players, coach and club – we stay firm.

    "This is Atletico Madrid and I think that in the second half when it seemed that everything was going to suffer, we won."

    Costa's winner came 17 minutes after Atletico were reduced to 10 men when Mario Hermoso was sent off.

    Atletico are on a 16-match unbeaten run ahead of visiting Getafe on Thursday.

  • Setien says Messi needs a rest as Barcelona chase LaLiga title Setien says Messi needs a rest as Barcelona chase LaLiga title

    Quique Setien said Lionel Messi needed a rest as his "tired" Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid with a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid.

    Messi set up Arturo Vidal's 15th-minute goal on Saturday as Barca moved back within a point of rivals and LaLiga leaders Madrid, who have a game in hand.

    But the superstar attacker played 90 minutes as Barca's busy schedule continued and Setien said afterwards that Messi needed a rest.

    "He probably will get a rest, yes," the Barcelona coach told a news conference.

    "I've mentioned it to him previously and perhaps today if we'd got a couple more goals, as I think we deserved, he probably would have come off to get a little bit of a rest."

    Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, meanwhile, each played 45 minutes, with the Uruguayan replacing the France international at half-time.

    Setien, who said Griezmann had taken a "knock", feels Barca were tired after a third game in the space of a week.

    "I think it's mostly tired legs. It's less than 72 hours since we played our last game," he said.

    "It was very hot today and the pitch felt a lot bigger towards the end of the match. You could see that, a lot of players were not looking fresh on late in the game and they probably lacked that touch of intensity.

    "We've played many games and it's very draining and we have quite a few players who've played a lot of minutes so we can't blame our football, I blame mostly our tired legs for today's game.

    "Sometimes that can affect your decision making, but this is normal for the current situation we're in."

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