Antoine Griezmann’s second half goal proved the difference as Atletico Madrid tightened their grip on third place in La Liga with a narrow 1-0 win over Espanyol.
Diego Simeone’s side were made to work for the victory, with the hosts dominating large swathes of possession. However, they struggled to create much in the way of goalscoring opportunities despite the best efforts of on loan Valencia playmaker Pablo Piatti.
Only one change was made from the lineup that faced Leicester City in the Champions League during the week, and there were signs of weariness in Atletico Madrid’s performance at the RCDE Stadium.
But Griezmann gave the visitors three points with a side-footed volley after 73 minutes, beating goalkeeper Diego Lopez at his near post. Espanyol pressed to find an equaliser, but Atleti held on for the win to strengthen their position in third place behind leaders Real Madrid and Barcelona head of Sunday’s Clasico.
TALKING POINT - Gabi Fernandez is enjoying a resurgence
Just a few months ago Gabs looked to be past his best. Simeone was starting to look for alternatives in the centre of midfield, with the 33-year-old unable to control games in the way he once was. But Gabi was back to his best against Espanyol, dictating things form his position in the middle of the pitch. Simeone has his midfielder marshal back.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Antoine Griezmann
The Frenchman has been the difference for Atletico Madrid so many times this season, and so it proved again. Griezmann’s goal clinched all three points for the visitors to the RCDE Stadium, masking what had been up until that point a quiet performance from the attacker. But this only underlines just how important Griezmann has come to be at Atleti - even below par he is their difference maker.
Espanyol - Lopez 6, Lopez 6, Lopez 5, Reyes 6, Aaron 7, Fuego 6, Victor 5, Piatti 7, Jurado 6, Gerard 7, Caicedo 5. Subs - Navarro 5, Leo 6, Reyes 5.
Atletico Madrid - Oblak 7, Gimenez 7, Savic 6, Godin 6, Luis 5, Gabi 6, Koke 6, Saul 6, Carrasco 5, Griezmann 7, Torres 5. Subs - Thomas 5, Gameiro 6.
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