Atletico Madrid climb to 3rd in LaLiga

Madrid, Jun 20 (efe-epa).- Atletico Madrid got a goal in the 81st minute to prevail 1-0 here Saturday over Valladolid and grab third place in LaLiga.

Their second consecutive victory put the Colchoneros level on points with Sevilla at 52, but the capital side pushed the Andalusian squad down to fourth on the strength of a better goal difference.

Atletico have netted 7 of a possible 9 points from their three matches since the LaLiga season resumed last week after a three-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The outcome at the Wanda Metropolitano left Valladolid in 15th place with 33 points from 30 matches.

Unusually for a team that built its reputation on defending, Atleti dominated possession (61 percent), shots (13-5) and corners (10-1).

Atletico were notably uncomfortable having so much of the ball and the first chance of the night was the work of Valladolid’s Waldo Rubio, who forced an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the 4th minute with a blast from 25 yards out.

The visitors, meanwhile, were reliant at the back on Jose Antonio Caro, making his first appearance in goal in LaLiga.

Yet the contest remained scoreless at the hour mark, prompting Atleti coach Diego Simeone to replace Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata up front with Diego Costa and Angel Correa, respectively.

Costa appeared to score shortly after he entered the pitch, but the goal was disallowed for an offside and what would prove to be the decisive substitution came in the 72nd minute, when Vitolo went in for Marcos Llorente.

With the match in the final stretch, Thomas Partey unleashed a blistering strike that Caro did well to turn aside for a corner.

Seconds later, the Valladolid keeper blundered spectacularly to set up a goal by Vitolo, only his fourth in more than two years with Atletico.

Caro came out to deal with Vitolo, leaving the net unguarded, and though defender Kiko Olivas thought he had gotten there in time, a VAR review determined that the ball crossed the line.

Earlier Saturday in Bilbao, Athletic Club bested Real Betis 1-0 on a goal in the 7th minute by Iñigo Martinez.

The defender picked a good time to contribute his first goal in 85 matches for Athletic, who probably should have had more.

Athletic’s first triumph since the restart boosted them to 42 points, good enough for ninth place and a chance to join the scramble for Europa League slots.

Conversely, the loss looked likely to mean the end of the line for Rubi as coach of Betis, who are 14th with 34 points,

Sixteenth-place Eibar earned a valuable point toward staying up with a scrappy 1-1 draw at Getafe.

Saturday’s match in suburban Madrid brought together two of the most physical sides in LaLiga, resulting in a display that was long on emotion and short on quality.

Both clubs were looking for their first win since the restart and both coaches shook up their lineups.

And though the changes did nothing to alter the fundamental character of either squad, the new faces accounted for the goals.

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