Levante 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Early own goal enough for third straight win

Omnisport

Atletico Madrid took another significant step towards Champions League qualification with a 1-0 victory at Levante.

Diego Simeone's Atleti were sixth in LaLiga just a week ago but have since won three on the bounce without conceding to steal a march on their rivals and go third.

Marcos Llorente - this season's Champions League hero in the last 16 against Liverpool - was the star of the show on Tuesday, providing both style and substance as he had a hand in an early Bruno Gonzalez own goal.

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Atleti were dominant throughout but failed to build on that opener - kept at bay by an all-action display from Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez - in a deserved yet ultimately slightly nervy away success.

Swiftly stamping his mark on the match, Llorente had tested Aitor inside 30 seconds and soon forged the breakthrough with a sublime piece of close control.

The midfielder took a powerful 15th-minute pass in his stride as he turned into the area and then squared as Aitor advanced, forcing Ruben Vezo to clumsily turn the ball towards his own goal, although Bruno contributed an unwitting final touch.

Aitor did his utmost to keep the scoring down as he parried shots from Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Partey either side of the goal, while both Diego Costa and Llorente were wasteful from promising positions.

The Levante goalkeeper smartly saved again from Carrasco before the interval, which failed to disrupt the visitors' momentum as only an offside flag denied Thomas a fierce second.

Aitor bailed out Jose Campana after his error presented an opportunity to fellow substitute Joao Felix, who later blazed over when Levante again failed to clear their lines, a miss that maintained the home side's interest in the closing stages despite their failure to test Jan Oblak.


What does it mean? Atleti back on track

After spending big ahead of this season, it was crucial Atletico secured Champions League qualification - regardless of the success or otherwise of their ongoing European campaign. Their status in next season's competition looked in some doubt as the season restarted, but Simeone and his side have enjoyed an excellent week.

Llorente loving new role

Signed from rivals Real Madrid as a holding midfielder, Llorente is now making his name in an advanced role. The 25-year-old turned in another impressive performance here. Indeed, rather than Joao Felix or Alvaro Morata, it is Llorente who looks best suited to partnering Costa in attack at present.

Forward fails to fire

Supposedly a more natural attacking option, Joao Felix is struggling to follow Llorente in improving as his first Atleti season wears on. After scoring twice against Osasuna, the Portuguese struggled at home to Real Valladolid and then, as a substitute here, failed to impress again. One poor miss stood out after replacing Llorente.

What's next?

Atletico face another side stuck in mid-table with little to play for next: Deportivo Alaves visit the capital on Saturday. Meanwhile, Levante are at home again against Real Betis the following day.

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