Atletico extend LaLiga lead over Real Madrid, Barça

Sports Desk, Dec 5 (efe-epa).- Atletico Madrid defeated Valladolid 2-0 Saturday to take provisional possession of first place in LaLiga, while cross-town rivals Real Madrid edged Sevilla 1-0 and Barcelona lost 2-1 to surprising Cadiz.

A seventh straight league victory lifted Atletico to 26 points, 2 more than Real Sociedad in second, and the capital team have a game in hand.

The Colchoneros are 6 points ahead of defending champions Real Madrid and 12 points better than Barça, who have lost four of their first 10 domestic matches while going a perfect 5-0-0 in the Champions League.

Marcos Llorente showed again Saturday the quality that has made him the go-to option for Atletico coach Diego Simeone, assisting on one goal and scoring another.

Though second-from-the-bottom, Valladolid delivered a solid performance, defending well and attacking without hesitation when they got the chance.

Valladolid lost on their last two visits to the Wanda Metropolitano, but by 1-0 on each occasion, and they made the Colchoneros work hard to win on Saturday.

With the score still 0-0 after 45 minutes, Simeone sent Llorente out at the start of the second half in place of Vitolo, who was already on a yellow card.

Ten minutes after the re-start, Llorente sent the ball deep to Kieran Trippier, who sent a cross into the area for Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan didn’t reach it, but Thomas Lemar got there to put Atleti up 1-0.

It was the Frenchman’s first goal since April 2019.

In the 72nd minute, a booming clearance by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak found Trippier in Valladolid’s half and the defender relayed to Llorente for the 2-0.

Real Madrid, who came into the match at Sevilla with just one victory in their last five outings in all competitions, eked out a 1-0 result on an own goal by the hosts.

The outcome should provide a morale boost ahead of next week’s decisive Champions League clash with Borussia Mönchengladbach, which the Blancos must win to be certain of continuing their pursuit of a record-extending 14th title in Europe’s elite club competition.

The absence of spectators in the stands at Seville’s Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan took away some of the excitement that would normally accompany a Sevilla-Real Madrid tie.

Yet the game was highly competitive as both teams were anxious to bounce back from embarrassing defeats in the Champions League at mid-week, when the Blancos fell 2-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk and Sevilla lost 4-0 at home to Chelsea.

Real Madrid, playing without the injured Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Fede Valverde and Eden Hazard, were the much better squad in the first half and nearly took the lead inside the first minute with a curving shot from Vinicius Jr. that didn’t miss by much.

Minutes later, a mistake by Sevilla goalkeeper Bono, making his first appearance after recovering from Covid-19, nearly gifted a goal to the Brazilian.

Toni Kroos saw a strike deflected just wide in the 21st minute and Karim Benzema forced a stop from Bono in the 38th, but the game remained scoreless at the break.

Though the hosts were much improved in the second half and ended the match with 68 percent possession, they were unable to put anything past Blancos keeper Thibaut Courtois.

The only goal of the afternoon came in the 55th minute, when Vinicius redirected a Ferland Mendy cross and the ball bounced off Bono into the Sevilla net.

Real Madrid are third in LaLiga with 20 points, while Sevilla slip to sixth place with 16 points.

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