Kevin Gameiro ended Atletico Madrid’s goal drought on the road as Diego Simeone’s men ground out a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo on Sunday to leapfrog Real Madrid into third in La Liga.
Atletico’s attacking options while they wait for Diego Costa’s return in January have been much criticised in recent weeks, particularly after a 0-0 draw at Azerbaijani champions Qarabag on Wednesday left their chances of reaching the Champions League last 16 in peril.
However, on his first league start of the season, Gameiro fired home a loose ball from a corner from close range on 28 minutes.
“I’ve come through a difficult time,” Gameiro, who missed the start of the season through injury, told BeIN Sports Spain.
“Now that I am able to play, I can help the team and score goals.”
It was only the second away game in Atletico’s last six in which Los Rojiblancos have found the net and they set about to defend their lead.
“It wasn’t our best game of the season, but we won and that was the objective,” added Gameiro.
Despite the sparse crowd at Balaidos caused by the closure of a stand on security grounds, Celta swarmed forward after the break.
Jan Oblak produced fine saves to deny Iago Aspas and in stoppage time from John Guidetti, while Aspas also clipped the bar with a free-kick.
And Celta were also left furious at the referee after Atletico captain Gabi appeared to handle inside the area on the hour mark.
However, Atletico held on to maintain their unbeaten start to La Liga and move back to within six points of leaders Barcelona.
Real can move back above their city rivals and to within five points of Barca with victory at home to Eibar later on Sunday.
Earlier, Villarreal’s revival under new coach Javier Calleja continued with a 4-0 thrashing of Las Palmas.
Second-half strikes from Cedric Bakambu, Mario Gaspar and Nicola Sansone added to Ximo Navarro’s own goal helped move the Yellow Submarine up to fifth.