Madrid, Jul 3 (efe-epa).- Alvaro Morata had a brace here Friday to lead Atletico Madrid 3-0 over Mallorca and tighten the Colchoneros’ grip on third place in LaLiga.
Atleti are now 5 points ahead of fourth-place Sevilla, who have a game in hand. Mallorca sit in the 18th spot, 5 points from safety.
Atletico have been on a run of good form since LaLiga returned to action in June following the three-month layoff due to the Covid-19 pandemic, picking up 17 of a possible 21 points to ensure a top four finish and the Champions League berth that comes with it.
But until Friday, the re-start has been frustrating for Morata, repeatedly left out of the lineup in favor of Diego Costa, and he made the most of his chance against Mallorca.
The visitors, fresh off a 5-0 rout of Celta Vigo, signaled a clear intention to take the match to Atletico and Take Kubo’s first foray into the offensive zone came in the 5th minute.
Five minutes later, the Japanese forward set up Alex Pozo, who forced a stop from goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The Atleti attack stirred to life with an opportunity for Morata off a great pass from Saul to an unmarked Manu Sanchez before Joao Felix flubbed a chance to open the scoring.
Minutes later, Morata backheeled the ball to Yannick Carrasco only for the Frenchman to send his shot high.
The match-clock was approaching 30 minutes when Mallorca defender Aleksandar Sedlar fouled Morata in the box and the referee awarded a penalty.
Atleti’s lack of precision from the spot hurt them in their recent 2-2 draw with Barcelona at Camp Nou and Mallorca keeper Manolo Reina denied Morata.
Sedlar, however, was guilty of encroachment and the referee ordered a re-kick, which Morata converted for the 1-0.
It was a night to forget for Felix, who sent the ball skyward after taking a deft back-pass from Marcos Llorente, giving Mallorca hope of reaching the break down by just a goal.
Four minutes into first-half stoppage time, a takeaway on the edge of the 18-yard box sent Llorente rushing to the byline, from where he served up a perfect pass to Morata to make it 2-0.
Atleti coach Diego Simeone sent Angel Correa on for Felix and replaced Morata with Costa in hopes of revitalizing the attack, though it was another sub, Renan Lodi, who hit the cross-bar before Koke Resurreccion got the third goal with 20 minutes left. EFE