Sports

Martinez goal downs Atletico Madrid, tightening race for La Liga title

Bilbao, Spain, Apr 25 (EFE).- A goal by Iñigo Martinez just four minutes before the whistle was the 2-1 game-winner for Athletic Bilbao in its match against Atletico de Madrid, and now the La Liga leaders are just two points ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona and three ahead of Sevilla, tightening the race for the title.

The match in the 32nd week of the Spanish First Division football season was played to empty stands at San Mames stadium due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.

Alex Berenguer scored the 1-0 eight minutes into play upon heading the ball from the edge of the area after a centering pass from Ander Capa from the right wing, this after a very quick counterattack by Marcelino Garcia Toral’s squad.

At the 77th minute, Stefan Savic, also on a header, made it 1-1 after a corner kick by Yannick Carrasco, and in the 86th minute Martinez scored the 2-1 on an extraordinary header from the penalty spot.

Despite the defeat, Atletico remains atop the La Liga table, two points ahead of its crosstown rivals, Real Madrid, as well as Barcelona, although the Catalan squad could take the lead in the race for the title if they can knock off Granada in their upcoming match after defeating Villarreal earlier on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Athletic Bilbao is in the 10th spot with 41 points.

Diego Simeone fielded the same starting 11 that enabled Atletico to win the day against Huesca, the only change being Felipe for Gimenez, while Marcelino went with his youngsters Villalibre, Morcillo and Sancet.

After the initial tally early on by Bilbao, they should have been up by two in the second half except for the fact that Oihan Sancet shot over the net.

Simeone inserted Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar in the 59th minute and Savic neatly sent in a header that evened things up only to have Martinez zip into the box and send a super-header into the twine past Jan Oblak with just four minutes on the clock.

Now, Atletico have won just six of their last 14 matches and the momentum they acquired – key in preserving their No. 1 spot – in their wins against Eibar and Huesca may have dissipated.

Lineups:

Athletic Bilbao: Unai Simon; Capa (Lekue, m.46), Nuñez, Iñigo Martinez, Balenziaga; Berenguer (Ibai, m.82), Dani Garcia, Vencedor (Vesga, m.70), Morcillo; Sancet (Unai Lopez, m.75) and Villalibre (Williams, m.70).

Atletico de Madrid: Oblak; Trippier (Joao Felix, m.59), Savic, Felipe, Lodi (Hermoso, m.74); Koke, Herrera (Lemar, m.59), Saul (Luis Suárez, m.59); Marcos Llorente, Carrasco and Correa (Torreira, m.65).

Referee: Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes showed yellow cards to Bilbao’s Sancet (m.44), Vencedor (m.61), Dani Garcia (m.58) and Unai Lopez (m.92) and to Madrid’s Llorente (m.11) and Torreira (m.81).

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