Niguez stun­ner hands Atletico much-needed win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID: A stun­ning 25-yard strike from Saul Niguez snapped Atletico Madrid’s three-game win­less streak with a nervy 1-0 win over Las Pal­mas yes­ter­day to move up to fifth in La Liga.

Atletico started the day 12 points adrift of lead­ers Real Madrid af­ter a run of four de­feats in seven league games. How­ever, Niguez’s bril­liant hit just be­fore the hour mark brought some blessed re­lief to the Vi­cente Calderon as Atletico en­sured they will end the year just a point off the top four.

Niguez also had the best ef­fort of a bright start from the hosts as he volleyed off the in­side of the post on 15 min­utes. Atletico’s strug­gles have co­in­cided with Antoine Griezmann’s loss of form as the French­man, who fin­ished third in the run­ning for the Bal­lon d’Or this week, was held score­less for a ninth con­sec­u­tive league game.

Griezmann’s strike part­ner Kevin Gameiro didn’t fare much bet­ter as he passed up a huge chance when try­ing to square for Griezmann mo­ments later and then fired wide from point-blank range at the near post.

Las Pal­mas dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion through­out with their neat short-pass­ing but the clos­est they came to break­ing the dead­lock be­fore half-time was an out­ra­geous hit from fully 40 yards by cen­tre-back Mauri­cio Le­mos that came back off the cross­bar.

The game swung in two mo­ments at ei­ther end just two min­utes apart at the start of the sec­ond-half. Firstly, Atletico ‘keeper Miguel An­gel Moya made a vi­tal save from Roque Mesa on his first La Liga start of the sea­son in the ab­sence of the in­jured Jan Oblak.

Niguez then pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the Las Pal­mas area to curl home his first league goal of the sea­son. Moya was called into ac­tion again three min­utes from time to parry Marko Li­vaja, but Atletico held out for a cru­cial three points.

Fresh from a 2-0 win over Atletico on Mon­day, Vil­lar­real re­main a point ahead of last sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal­ists thanks to a 3-1 win at Sport­ing Gi­jon. A dom­i­nant start from the visi­tors was re­warded with a two-goal lead in­side 20 min­utes through goals from Jonathan dos San­tos and Ni­cola San­sone. Former AC Mi­lan and Chelsea striker Alexandre Pato then rounded off a fine in­di­vid­ual dis­play with just his sec­ond La Liga goal of the sea­son 16 min­utes from time be­fore Car­los Car­mona reg­is­tered a late con­so­la­tion for Sport­ing. De­feat for Sport­ing also en­sures that Va­len­cia will end the year out­side the rel­e­ga­tion zone on goal dif­fer­ence. Sevilla can leapfrog Barcelona into sec­ond place with vic­tory at home to Malaga later.

Barca aren’t in ac­tion un­til Sun­day when they host Es­panyol in the Cata­lan derby. Real Madrid are not in league ac­tion this week­end as they face Kashima Antlers in the Club World Cup fi­nal in Yoko­hama, Ja­pan, to­day.

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