Sports

Griezmann treble keeps Atletico on Barca’s heels

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BARCELONA :

 Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann scored his first hat-trick this season as they hammered Sevilla 5-2 away in La Liga to keep the pressure on leaders Barcelona, while fourth-placed Valencia beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Sunday.

Diego Costa gave Atletico the lead against the run of play in the 29th minute, chasing down Ever Banega just outside the area and easily beating goalkeeper Sergio Rico, scoring for the eighth time against Sevilla in all competitions.

Griezmann then showed his class with a magnificent solo goal in the 42nd, waltzing past two players outside the area to drift into the middle before whipping the ball into the far corner.

The France forward scored Atleti’s third with a penalty in the 51st after Costa was fouled before Sevilla were careless again when Gabriel Mercado’s pass to Rico was intercepted by Griezmann, who backheeled for Koke to tap home in the 65th.

Griezmann completed his treble in the 81st, although Sevilla midfielder Pablo Sarabia scored late on to snap Atletico’s run of four games without conceding and Nolito struck another consolation goal for the hosts in the 89th.

“The team were very convincing, we knew what we had to do on the pitch and we did it very well. The second half was our best display of the season,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

Atleti are second in the standings on 58 points after 25 games while Barca have 65 and host Diego Simeone’s side next Sunday at the Nou Camp in a top-of-the-table clash, although both sides will be in Liga action during the week.

Sevilla had only lost once at home in any competition in the last 15 months and went into the game after an impressive performance in their goalless draw with Manchester United in a Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.

Costa fired a speculative shot at goal early on but Sevilla found the first clear opening when Luis Muriel broke towards goal but was thwarted by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak and Joaquin Correa cracked the loose ball just wide of goal.

Vincenzo Montella’s side never recovered from the shock of going behind to Costa’s goal, however, and suffered a big setback ahead of their second leg against United when Jesus Navas limped off with a calf injury.

Valencia withstood a late wave of Real Sociedad pressure to maintain their push for Champions League qualification by holding onto fourth spot in the standings.

JAW-DROPPING SAVE

Santi Mina headed Valencia in front after 34 minutes and the striker restored their advantage from close range in the 68th after Spain international Mikel Oyarzabal had levelled earlier in the second half for troubled Real Sociedad, who are 14th in the standings and exited the Europa League on Thursday.

Valencia goalkeeper Neto made a jaw-dropping save with 10 minutes left from Sergio Canales, stopping the shot with his shoulder as it was about to cross the goal-line.

“We played a good first half and a poor second half and we got a victory which is very important but which we perhaps didn’t deserve,” said Valencia coach Marcelino.

Valencia are fourth on 49 points, eight above fifth-placed Villarreal who beat visiting Getafe 1-0 thanks to a goal after three minutes by Enes Unal and with keeper Sergio Asenjo saving penalties from Jorge Molina and Angel Rodriguez either side of halftime.

Athletic Bilbao’s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga also saved a penalty, denying Malaga forward Youssef En-Nesyri in a 2-1 home win over the Liga basement club.

Published : February 26, 2018 9:37 am