Atlético Madrid wins again, stays 5 points ahead in Spain

MADRID (AP) — Atlético Madrid got back to winning on Sunday, beating Villarreal 2-0 to halt its slump and restore a five-point lead at the top of the Spanish league.

An own-goal by Alfonso Pedraza in the first half and a goal by forward João Félix in the second helped Atlético end a three-game winless streak and rebuild its lead over second-place Barcelona, which won 2-0 at fourth-place Sevilla on Saturday. Atlético has a game in hand compared to the Catalan club.

Third-place Real Madrid can get back to within three points of Atlético on Monday with a win against fifth-place Real Sociedad at home. Madrid will have played one more game more than Atlético.

Atlético hosts Madrid in the city derby next Sunday.

Diego Simeone’s team was coming off a 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday. It also lost 2-0 to Levante at home in the Spanish league, and had previously drawn with Levante in a league match postponed from the second round because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was a very important victory,” Atlético defender Stefan Savic said. “We were coming off a bad streak of results and the team responded well. That’s what makes me happy.”

It was Atlético’s first clean sheet after eight matches, which had marked the team’s worst streak conceding goals since Simeone arrived in late 2011.

Unai Emery’s Villarreal, winless in six consecutive Spanish league games, dropped to seventh place.

Atlético went ahead in the 25th minute after Savic’s header was saved by Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo but the ball ricocheted off Pedraza and went in. The goal was initially disallowed for offside but later confirmed by video review.

Félix, who recently was sidelined for testing positive for COVID-19, scored his first goal since January with a low shot from inside the area in the 69th. The Portugal forward, who came off the bench after halftime, celebrated profusely and put a finger to his mouth, as if asking someone to be quiet. It wasn’t clear to whom he was sending a message.

MURILLO SCORES LATE

Colombian defender Jeison Murillo scored in the final minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw for Celta Vigo against relegation-threatened Valladolid.

Murillo netted the equalizer with a header from a set piece taken by Iago Aspas in the fourth minute of added time. Fabián Orellana had opened the scoring for the hosts in the 70th.

The result extended Valladolid’s winless streak in the league to eight matches. The team owned by former Brazil great Ronaldo stayed just outside the relegation zone with 22 points from 25 matches.

Celta, which has one win in its last 10 matches in all competitions, was in 11th place with 30 points from 25.

OTHER RESULTS

Eighth-place Granada ended a six-match winless streak by beating second-to-last-place Elche 2-1 at home.

Earlier, Juanmi Jiménez scored in the 84th as Real Betis won 1-0 at Cádiz. It was the third win in a row for Betis, which moved to sixth.

Cádiz, winless in seven consecutive league games, is three points from the relegation zone.

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