Elche, Spain, May 1 (EFE).- Atletico Madrid needed help from the woodwork Saturday to deny Elche an equalizer in stoppage time and guarantee that they will end the weekend atop LaLiga regardless of what rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona do in their respective matches.
Atleti improve to 76 points, 5 more than both the Blancos and Barça, each with a game in hand, which means that Diego Simeone’s men will be champions if they win all four of their remaining matches.
The visitors began brightly and Luis Suarez created a chance in the 12th minute with help from Angel Correa.
Four minutes later, the same combination resulted in a goal for Suarez, but a VAR review found that the Uruguayan was offside and the side remained level at 0-0.
Not for long, though, as Marcos Llorente scored in the 23rd minute with a big assist from Yannick Carrasco and a lucky deflection off the arm of Elche defender Josema.
Fighting to stay in LaLiga, 18th-place Elche had to react after conceding the goal, yet they lacked the quality or intensity to put any real pressure on Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The Colchoneros seemed poised to double their advantage when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after a Correa strike hit the arm of Elche’s Diego Gonzalez.
VAR intervened and a look at the monitor convinced the referee to withdraw the penalty.
Elche coach Fran Escriba tried to energize his squad with a double-substitution to start the second half, only to see Suarez threaten in the 48th minute with an effort that ended up in the side netting.
Suarez beat keeper Paulo Gazzaniga in the 63rd minute, but the goal was again disallowed for an offside.
Atleti ceded the initiative to the hosts for the final 15 minutes and were lucky not to drop points. Failure to clear after a corner created space for Elche’s Victor Rodriguez to get the ball to Antonio Barragan at the far post and the defender’s header went just over the cross-bar.
Rodriguez sent a free kick into the box in the 89th minute and the ball hit Llorente on the arm as he tried to block it.
This time, the penalty stood and Oblak had the post to thank for turning aside Fidel Chaves’ effort from the spot. EFE