Madrid, Dec 29 (EFE).- Last-place Elche held Atletico Madrid scorless for 55 minutes here Thursday, but the hosts ultimately prevailed 2-0 to climb to third place in LaLiga with 27 points, 10 points behind leaders Barcelona.
The Colchoneros trail Real Madrid by 8 points and are just 1 point better than Real Sociedad, who have a game in hand. Elche, meanwhile, find themselve 8 points from safety after 15 matches.
Joao Felix, on the outs with coach Diego Simeone and expected to leave Atleti in the January transfer window, was the savior Thursday at the Civitas Metropolitano, overcoming Elche goalkeeper with a thunderous header off Antoine Griezmann’s cross.
By the time the Portugal international opened the scoring, both teams were down to 10 men.
Elche’s Gonzalu Verdu was sent off with a straight red card in first-half stoppage time after VAR concluded that he denied a scoring opportunity when he brought down Alvaro Morata on the edge of the area.
Atleti’s chance to grab the lead before the break came to nothing, as Felix’s free kick went into the Elche wall and Badia denied Geoffrey Kondogbia’s attempt on the rebound.
A pair of reckless challenges just three minutes apart saw Atletico defender Mario Hermoso ejected in the 53rd minute, barely 180 seconds before Felix’s goal.
Badia did well to stop Felix from getting a second in the 62nd minute, but the Elche keeper couldn’t stop Alvaro Morata from stretching the Atleti lead in the 74th.
The visitors’ best chance came with a minute left in regulation, when Pedro Bigas forced an impressive save from Jan Oblak seconds before Elche’s Domingos Quino got the boot for a second yellow card.