MADRID: Antoine Griezmann was Atletico Madrid’s hero once more with the winner as last season’s Champions League finalists moved third in La Liga with a 1-0 win over 10-man Deportivo la Coruna.
Moroccan winger Faycal Fajr undid a fine opening 45 minutes for the visitors on Sunday (Monday in Manila) when he picked up two quickfire yellow cards just before the break.
Atletico passed up a host of chances in the second half, but finally made the breakthrough 20 minutes from time when Griezmann tapped home his fifth goal of the season.
Diego Simeone’s men now trail leaders Real Madrid by just two points and move to within a point of Barcelona.
However, the hosts’ victory was overshadowed by an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered by midfielder Augusto Fernandez before half-time that will keep him out for much of the remainder of the season.
Jose Maria Gimenez also had to be replaced in the first-half with a groin injury and is set to miss Wendesday’s huge Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.
Deportivo have now lost on their last 11 visits to the Vicente Calderon, but frustrated Atletico until Fajr’s moments of madness left the Galicians with an almost impossible task.
Griezmann had the hosts’ best chance of a first half disrupted by the injuries to Fernandez and Gimenez when he slotted wide from Angel Correa’s cross.
Fajr eased Atletico’s route to victory when he dived in late on Nicolas Gaitan in first-half stoppage time to leave Deportivo with 10 men.
The visitors still had a great chance to take a shock lead at the start of the second period when Lucas Hernandez headed clear from under his own crossbar with Florin Andone waiting to turn the ball home.
Yannick Carrasco and Correa then saw great chances saved by German Lux, while Filipe Luis fired just wide as the chances began to flow for Atletico.
However, it took until 20 minutes from time for the goal to come as substitute Kevin Gameiro latched onto Juanfran’s pass and his low cross was turned home by his French international teammate Griezmann.
Earlier, Valencia’s upturn under caretaker coach Voro continued as they came from behind to beat Leganes 2-1, but were grateful once more to Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Alves’s fantastic record of saving penalties.
Alexander Szymanowski headed the hosts into the lead, but Nani levelled with his first Valencia goal 10 minutes before half-time.
Nani’s cross was turned home by Mario Suarez to put Valencia in front.
However, Szymanowski had the chance to give Leganes a deserved share of the points when Alves upended Alberto Martin half an hour from time.
Yet Alves produced his 20th save from 43 penalties he’s faced in Spanish football to ensure Valencia’s second win in four days.
Voro has now won eight of the 10 games he has taken charge of in four caretaker spells.