Antoine Griezmann starred as Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways in LaLiga with a 3-0 victory over Real Valladolid.
Three goals in 10 first-half minutes at the Civitas Metropolitano put Diego Simeone's side in control en route to their first league victory of 2023.
Griezmann's stellar assist set up Alvaro Morata's opener, with the France international then adding his own name to the scoresheet with a cheeky finish.
It was also Griezmann's delivery that led to Mario Hermoso firing home on the rebound as Los Colchoneros set down a marker in the fierce battle for a top-four finish.
Morata started brightly and opened the scoring in the 18th minute, deceiving a defender with a feint and slotting past Jordi Masip after Griezmann's outrageous backheel.
The hosts doubled their advantage five minutes later as Griezmann flicked Nahuel Molina's driven cross beyond Masip at the near post.
Hermoso soon added a third, blasting in from close range after his initial header from Griezmann's free-kick was parried by the goalkeeper.
Thinking ahead to the midweek Copa del Rey clash with Real Madrid, Diego Simeone shuffled his deck before the hour, and the introduction of Barcelona-linked Yannick Carrasco drew jeers from sections of the crowd.
But Atletico continued to threaten, Koke hitting the crossbar and Angel Correa seeing a low drive strike both posts.
Memphis Depay, making his debut after joining from Barca, was introduced for a 15-minute cameo as Atletico ultimately coasted to a straightforward victory that puts them three points clear of the chasing pack.
What does it mean? Atletico remain on track
After beginning 2023 with a defeat to Barcelona and a draw at Almeria in LaLiga, three points for Atletico against Valladolid was necessary with a real scrap developing for fourth spot.
Playing before their top-four rivals Villarreal, Real Betis and Osasuna, Atletico could not afford to drop further points having entered the game just three above tenth-placed Real Mallorca.
While extending that margin to six gives Atletico a little more security, it also keeps them in the driving seat unless Villarreal batter Girona on Sunday.
Griez is the word
Valladolid will surely be sick of the sight of Griezmann, with that first-half goal his ninth in 10 LaLiga appearances against Pucela.
Griezmann's goal came with his only touch inside the opposition box, while his three chances created was the joint-most in the game alongside Correa.
Defeat for Valladolid was their fifth successive LaLiga loss without scoring, the first time in their history they have endured such a losing streak and failed to score in each game.
The wait for a goal on the road continues, with their last being against Getafe on October 1.
Key Opta facts
- Alvaro Morata scored his 50th goal in LaLiga; 25 in 67 appearances for Atletico Madrid, and 25 from 63 games for Real Madrid.
- Antoine Griezmann scored and delivered an assist in a single LaLiga game for the first time since November 2021 against Cadiz (also one goal and one assist).
- Antoine Griezmann has tallied a goal and an assist in a single game 12 times with Atletico Madrid, more than any other player for the club in the 21st century (Sergio Aguero had 11, and Diego Forlan had 10).
- This is the first time Atletico Madrid have scored three goals in the first 30 minutes of a LaLiga game since April 2017, when they beat Las Palmas 5-0.
- Memphis Depay is the first Dutch player to make an appearance in LaLiga for Atletico Madrid since John Heitinga in August 2009. The striker is the fourth Dutchman to represent the club in the competition after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Kiki Musampa and Heitinga (all played 34 times).
Atletico make the short trip across the capital to face rivals Real Madrid in their Copa del Rey quarter-final on Thursday.