The saviour

Griez­mann scores the soli­tary goal in Atletico Madrid’s win

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AN­TOINE Griez­mann came to the res­cue again as Atletico Madrid kept the pres­sure on Barcelona at the top of La Liga on Sun­day by edg­ing past Le­vante. Griez­mann has now scored all of Atletico’s last six goals and this lat­est one, from the penalty spot, proved the dif­fer­ence in a cagey con­test at the Wanda Metropoli­tano.

A 1-0 vic­tory for Diego Sime­one's side cuts the gap from five points to two be­hind Barca, who will re­store their ad­van­tage with a win over Eibar later on Sun­day. Le­vante, who have not won in the league since De­cem­ber 3, stay 11th.

Atletico had 19 shots and, un­usu­ally for them, dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion but they con­tinue to rely on Griez­mann’s ex­cel­lent scor­ing run for points.

“We all pull the cart in dif­fi­cult mo­ments,” Griez­mann said. “I can­not do any­thing with­out my team-mates.”

But, in their last five games, it is the French­man’s goals that have earned wins over Le­vante, Real Val­ladolid and Es­panyol, while spar­ing them de­feats away to Sevilla and Girona.

Griez­mann was per­sis­tent in ex­press­ing his de­sire to win the Bal­lon d'Or in De­cem­ber but since the prize went to Real Madrid's Luka Mo­dric, he has hit seven goals in seven games. Per­haps a sharp­en­ing of fo­cus has done him good too. He could have scored early but feath­ered An­gel Cor­rea's cross wide while Koke thought he had, tuck­ing Vi­tolo's pass neatly into the cor­ner, only for VAR to find a foul in the build-up.

In be­tween, Ste­fan Savic sus­tained a thigh in­jury and was re­placed by Jose Gimenez, who has him­self only re­cently re­turned from a calf prob­lem, with this his first league ap­pear­ance since De­cem­ber 8.

Af­ter a nervy start, Le­vante be­gan to frus­trate their op­po­nents, whose poor de­ci­sion­mak­ing in the fi­nal third had Sime­one flail­ing on the touch­line. It seemed likely the pres­sure would pay, how­ever, and 12 min­utes into the sec­ond half so it proved, as Thomas Partey's cut­back struck the hand of Nikola Vukce­vic, who had slid to block but left his arm out­stretched be­hind his back.

Griez­mann banged the penalty into the roof of the net. Atletico could have made it more com­fort­able late on but Vi­tolo's shot whis­tled past the post, Partey pow­ered over and Thomas Le­mar found the an­gle too tight. One was just enough.

AFP

An­toine Griez­mann cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing in Madrid on Sun­day.

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