Madrid: Superstar forward Antoine Griezmann led Atletico Madrid to a 1-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano, a result that gets the club back on track in the La Liga.
Atletico came out eager for a win here on Saturday after having lost their last two Spanish-league games against Real Betis and Real Madrid, but instead it was the home side that created the best two scoring chances of the first half.
Winger Adrian Embarba posed the threat both times, but goalkeeper Jan Oblak caught the first shot in the 26th minute before clearing away the second for a corner at the 35-minute mark.
Atletico was out of sorts at that stage of the contest, with midfielders Vitolo and Rodri giving the ball away on multiple occasions and the visitors lacking intensity as a unit.
The best scoring chance for Diego Simeone’s men in the first half came with six minutes to go before stoppage time, when Brazilian left back Filipe Luis sent a cross into the area.
But even though Rayo goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski was out of position at the near post, no Atletico player was there to put the ball home.
Atletico came out more aggressively after the intermission and opted to employ a high press, but were unable to penetrate the home side’s defensive wall when they gained possession.
Simeone, who this week extended his contract as Atletico’s head coach through 2022, made two changes at the one-hour mark when he inserted French midfielder Thomas Lemar and Spanish forward Diego Costa, who made his first appearance since sustaining a foot injury and then undergoing surgery on December 5, 2018.
Ironically, however, Atletico notched the lone goal of the match when all appeared to be in Rayo’s favour.
In the 73rd minute, Alvaro Morata collected a high ball and set it up for Griezmann, who fired a shot that was slightly deflected by centre back Jordi Amat before travelling into the back of the net.
In Serie A, two goals from Krzysztof Piatek helped AC Milan come from behind to beat Atalanta 3-1 away in Serie A and move four points clear in fourth place on Saturday.
Piatek cancelled out Remo Freuler’s first-half opener with goals either side of halftime to take his tally at Milan to six in five games since joining from Genoa in January, with Hakan Calhanoglu also finding the net between the Pole’s two strikes.
In Ligue 1, Monaco beat Nantes 1-0 to record their second home win of the season in Ligue 1 on Saturday to move out of the relegation zone for the first time since September.
Leonardo Jardim’s return as coach at the end of January has sparked a turnaround in fortunes for the principality, who have now won two and drawn one of their last three league games.
Gelson Martins, who joined the club on loan from Atletico Madrid in January, tapped in the winner at the back post after 13 minutes to mark his second goal in three Ligue 1 games for Monaco.