Chelsea See Off Atletico To Reach Champions League Quarters

 

Chelsea eased into the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Atletico Madrid, as Hakim Ziyech and Emerson Palmieri goals secured a last 16, second leg win at Stamford Bridge.

Thomas Tuchel said “super hungry” Chelsea have their sights set on reaching the Champions League final after Hakim Ziyech ended his goal drought to inspire a 2-0 win against Atletico Madrid in the last-16 second leg on Wednesday.

Morocco forward Ziyech grabbed his first goal since October to put the hosts ahead in the first half at Stamford Bridge.

Emerson came off the bench to score the late goal that sealed a comfortable 3-0 aggregate victory over the lacklustre La Liga leaders.

Adding to Atletico’s misery, Stefan Savic was sent off in the closing stages for elbowing Antonio Rudiger in the stomach.

While Chelsea were the superior side for long periods, Atletico could justifiably claim they should have had a penalty for Cesar Azpilicueta’s challenge on Yannick Carrasco when the score was still 0-0.

Tuchel admitted it could have been a penalty, saying: “Azpi got a bit frightened because his ball was short, I was a bit frightened as well.”

But Atletico boss Diego Simeone added: “We are not looking for excuses. We were beaten by a better team. We tried to press them up the field, but couldn’t attack the way we like.”

That was the only major scare for Chelsea as they extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches since Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

Tuchel boasts the longest ever unbeaten start by a Chelsea boss after moving past Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Revitalised by Tuchel, Chelsea have conceded just two goals in his brief reign and are on a run of six consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.

“A very good performance, unbelievable effort. I could feel we totally wanted it,” Tuchel said.

“We enjoyed the battle. The guys were totally on and sharp. We were super hungry to go through.”

Leading Chelsea into the last eight for the first time since 2014 is another feather in Tuchel’s cap as the German eyes a return to the Champions League final following his defeat with Paris Saint-Germain against Bayern Munich last season.

“They play with a special bond. Fixtures and results like this give you a certain edge to achieve special things. I’m pretty sure no-one wants to play against us,” Tuchel said.

“Quarter-final means there’s only four games (until the final). It’s a big step and feels excellent.”

Chelsea, Champions League winners for the only time in 2012, had been eliminated in the first knockout stage in their last four appearances.

But they never looked in danger of losing the 1-0 lead given to them by Olivier Giroud’s overhead kick in the first leg in Bucharest.

– Azpilicueta escape –

Crucially, Azpilicueta escaped without punishment when the defender’s under-hit back-pass allowed Carrasco to nip ahead of him in the penalty area.

Azpilicueta responded with a panicked tug that sent Carrasco tumbling but Atletico’s penalty appeal was controversially rejected by referee Daniele Orsato, with VAR bizarrely opting not to intervene.

Simeone’s anger only increased as Chelsea made the most of their good fortune to take the lead in the 34th minute.

Timo Werner now has just two goals in his last 27 appearances for Chelsea.

But Tuchel backed Werner to come good this week and the Germany forward repaid his manager’s faith with a strong performance capped by the key contribution to Ziyech’s opener.

Breaking at pace after Werner blocked Kieran Trippier’s cross, Kai Havertz fed his team-mate on the left flank.

Werner accelerated away from the out-of-position Atletico defence before clipping a perfectly-weighted pass into Ziyech’s path.

Unmarked 10 yards from goal, Ziyech finished Chelsea’s thrust with a clinical strike.

Savic’s frustration boiled over in the 81st minute as he was dismissed for a needless elbow that drew a theatrical fall from Rudiger.

With Chelsea’s injured defender Thiago Silva roaring on Emerson from the stands, the left-back blasted home from Christian Pulisic’s pass in stoppage-time, sparking a wild celebration that encapsulated the feel-good factor fuelling the Blues at present.

-AFP

Atletico To Appeal Again After FIFA Confirm Trippier 10-Week Ban

Sevilla’s Moroccan forward Youssef En-Nesyri (L) vies with Atletico Madrid’s English defender Kieran Trippier during the Spanish League football match between Atletico Madrid and Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on January 12, 2021. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

 

Atletico Madrid will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after Kieran Trippier’s 10-week ban for breaching betting rules was upheld by FIFA on Monday.

Atletico will request Trippier’s suspension is again put on hold while the appeal is being heard, raising the possibility of the defender again returning to action.

As it stands, Trippier is banned until February 28 and is due to miss eight La Liga fixtures, as well as Atletico’s first leg at home to Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.

FIFA said in a statement on Monday the suspension handed to Trippier by the English Football Association (FA) applies worldwide.

But Atletico will now submit a fresh appeal to CAS, according to a club source, and request Trippier’s ban is again put on hold again until it is completed.

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Trippier was able to play for Atletico against Sevilla last week after the English FA had failed to delay enforcing his ban until the result of Atletico’s appeal to FIFA was known.

FIFA said in a statement on Monday: “The FIFA Appeal Committee has dismissed the appeal lodged by the club Atletico Madrid in a case concerning the player Kieran Trippier.

“As a consequence, the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee passed on 23 December 2020 is confirmed, extending sanctions imposed on the player by the English FA to have worldwide effect.”

An extended absence for Trippier would be a huge blow to Atletico Madrid, who sit four points clear at the top of La Liga, with two games in hand over their closest rivals Real Madrid.

Trippier has become a key player for coach Diego Simeone, who said in December he felt the ban was “unfair”.

The England right-back was suspended for 10 weeks and fined £70,000 ($94,000) by the FA for breaching betting rules.

In the written reasons for its decision, the FA said Trippier, 30, exchanged WhatsApp messages with friends about his impending move from Tottenham to Atletico Madrid in 2019.

In one of the messages, Trippier told a friend to “lump on” (bet heavily) regarding his move to Spain.

Atletico Target First La Liga Victory Over Barcelona Since 2010

File photo: Atletico Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Koke (C) celebrates his goal during the Spanish Super Cup semi-final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on January 9, 2020, at the King Abdullah Sport City in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid’s La Liga challenge will not succeed or fail on Saturday but end a decade-long drought by beating Barcelona and they could justifiably become favourites for the title.

A first league victory over Barca since 2010 would put Atletico nine points clear of their opponents and extend an impressive unbeaten run in the league to 24 matches.

They have played seven games so far this season, scoring 17 goals while conceding only two.

A convincing start, spearheaded by a flourishing Joao Felix and the invigorated Luis Suarez, has generated optimism but a real sense of opportunity has sprouted from the imperfections of their rivals.

Real Madrid have already lost twice, with Zinedine Zidane under pressure and all the guile and resilience that won them the title in July seemingly now absent four months later.

Barcelona are trying to begin again under Ronald Koeman but the teething problems that have them sitting eighth ahead of the trip to the Wanda Metropolitano are unlikely to be resolved soon, particularly with the upheaval of presidential elections to come in January.

Two teams at what feels like the end of two hugely successful cycles has created an opening for Atletico, whose own transition should be further along after their new crop proved raw last season but looks readier to capitalise this term.

The most obvious example of maturity is Felix, the 21-year-old who struggled to live up to expectations in his first year but has arguably been La Liga’s most influential player at this early stage of his second.

It is a great pity that Suarez, infected by coronavirus, will not face Barcelona, the club that so clumsily cast him aside in the summer.

But if Atletico are to win the title this season, it is likely to be with Felix as the driving force.

The Portuguese has already equalled the nine goals and assists he managed last season, with his instinctive, creative talents helping to unlock Atletico’s previously stodgy attack.

“He’s always had great moments for us but what he has now is consistency,” said coach Diego Simeone last month. “It’s a big year for him and hopefully he’ll keep getting better.”

Felix’s next challenge is to define games like this one and to give Simeone’s side even just a taste of the lethal touch in this fixture that Lionel Messi has given Barcelona.

Simeone was left applauding when Messi’s superb strike into the corner decided the contest at the Wanda Metropolitano last year, his 31st goal in 40 games against Atletico.

Messi is the thorn in Simeone’s side but the 33-year-old has not been his scintillating self in recent weeks, still weighed down perhaps by his blocked attempt to leave last summer.

There could be a lack of freshness in his legs too this weekend, given the Argentinian only finished playing 90 minutes against Peru in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Barca will also be missing Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets, both of them injured.

Even without Suarez, Atletico may feel then like the time is now to overcome their Catalan jinx, with the reward in the table potentially significant if a depleted Real Madrid also stumble away at Villarreal a few hours earlier.

Madrid’s defensive problems will not be helped by injuries to Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane while Villarreal are flying high in second, following four victories on the bounce.

But the benefits to Atletico in terms of belief could be even more valuable than places jumped or gaps extended, with major rivals vulnerable and a league title there for taking.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Friday

Osasuna v Huesca (2000)

Saturday

Levante v Elche (1300), Villarreal v Real Madrid (1515), Sevilla v Celta Vigo (1730), Atletico Madrid v Barcelona (2000)

Sunday

Eibar v Getafe (1300), Cadiz v Real Sociedad (1515), Granada v Real Valladolid (1730), Alaves v Valencia (2000)

Monday

Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis (2000)

AFP

Atletico Madrid Announce Signing Of Luis Suarez From Barcelona

Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match against Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid announced the signing of Barcelona forward Luis Suarez late on Wednesday, confirming the Uruguayan striker is set to continue playing in La Liga rather than joining Juventus in Italy.

Barcelona said that Atletico had agreed to pay six million euros for Suarez, who left his last training session in tears on Wednesday having been told over the summer that he was no longer required by new coach Ronald Koeman.

Since joining Barca from Liverpool in 2014, Suarez has won a host of trophies, including the 2015 Champions League and four Liga titles.

He leaves as the club’s third-highest scorer with 198 goals behind Cesar Rodriguez (232) and Lionel Messi (634).

The move to Barcelona’s La Liga rivals follows a failed attempt to join Juventus.

Juve coach Andrea Pirlo disclosed last week a deal was unlikely because of delays in the Uruguayan’s bid to get an Italian passport.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Perugia said they suspected Suarez of cheating to pass his Italian language test with the aid of examiners suspected of helping him.

The exit of the 33-year-old from Camp Nou comes as Koeman attempts to reshape Barcelona.

As well as Suarez, the Dutchman has shown the exit to Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic, while French defender Samuel Umtiti is also set to leave.

Spanish television channel Gol showed Suarez wiping away tears with his sleeve as he drove off after saying his last goodbyes to teammates at Barcelona’s Sant Joan Despi training centre.

‘Welcome To Anfield’, Klopp Warns Atletico

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects a very different atmosphere at Anfield will help turn his side’s Champions League last 16 tie with Atletico Madrid around after a 1-0 first leg defeat in the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

Saul Niguez’s early strike inflicted just Liverpool’s second defeat of the season in all competitions with a senior team.

The holders were frustrated by the hosts’ playacting and Polish referee Szymon Marciniak’s performance as Atletico boss Diego Simeone whipped the Wanda Metropolitano crowd into a frenzy.

“Wow, that’s energy!” Klopp told BT Sport when asked about Simeone’s touchline antics.

“I don’t think I have to do that much to be honest (in the second leg), I hope I can be focused a little bit more on the game.

“Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield! It’s not over yet.”

Klopp replaced Sadio Mane at half-time with the Senegalese at risk of being sent-off as Atletico players surrounded Marciniak demanding a second yellow card for the African player of the year just before the break.

“He was targeted that was clear,” added Klopp.

“Sadio played a really good first half and they only thing they wanted is to make sure he gets a yellow card.

“For me we didn’t lose, it’s only half-time, the score is 1-0 that’s all. But you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere, that was obviously not easy.”

The visitors were also riled by the celebrations of Simeone and some of his players at full-time after they secured a victory that could kickstart at faltering season.

“They’ve celebrated as if they’ve won the tie after the game, so let’s see,” said left-back Andy Robertson.

“We’ve got a couple of weeks, Premier League business to take care of, and then we’re coming back to Anfield.

“We know our fans will be there, we’ll be there, so it’s up to them to come as well.”

Real Madrid Beat Atletico To Move Six Points Clear

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates his team's win at the end of the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 1, 2020. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates his team’s win at the end of the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 1, 2020.
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane’s double substitution at half-time transformed the Madrid derby on Saturday as Real Madrid edged past Atletico 1-0 to move six points clear at the top of La Liga. 

Karim Benzema scored the winner at the Santiago Bernabeu after Zidane’s decisive intervention turned a contest that Atletico had dominated into another comfortable Real Madrid victory.

Vinicius Junior, one of the substitutes, was a key to the goal.

Second-place Barcelona can cut the gap back to three points by beating Levante at home on Sunday but Atletico now trail the leaders by 13 points.

While Diego Simeone’s side were excellent in the first half, they were yet again blunt in front of goal and then failed to respond when their opponents found a different gear.

This is Atletico’s fifth game without a win. The worry is that on this form, they should worry not about the title race but about missing out on Champions League qualification.

It is a far cry from pre-season when Atletico thrashed Real 7-3 and many were tipping them as serious challengers.

Zidane was under pressure then, but his team are on a relentless run, now 21 games unbeaten, the latest due in large part to his changes.

The decision to ditch a failing system and revert to 4-3-3, with Vinicuis Junior and Lucas Vazquez coming on for Isco and Toni Kroos, was both brave and effective.

Real’s form is impressive and they have Eden Hazard, out since November, on the brink of a return, perhaps on Thursday in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Real Sociedad.

Gareth Bale’s absence was not related to fitness. The Welshman was left out of the squad despite training for most of the week after an ankle injury.

Atletico were without the injured Kieran Trippier, meaning Sime Vrsaljko came in a right-back. January signing Yannick Carrasco was named on the bench, after rejoining from Dalian Yifang the day before.

Simeone’s side were significantly better in the first half and should have taken one of a handful of decent chances as Vitolo hit Thibaut Courtois, Saul Niguez flashed wide and Angel Correa poked past the post after going through one-on-one, even if he probably would have been called offside.

Real Madrid’s cluster of central midfielders looked unsure of their 4-3-2-1 shape. Fede Valverde looked particularly uncomfortable as he spent much of the first half as a right winger. Luka Modric was virtually anonymous in his more advanced role.

Zidane’s double change was a recognition of Atletico’s superiority as he reverted to the more familiar 4-3-3 with Modric deeper in midfield.

The balance shifted immediately. Real dominated the start of the second half.

In the 56th minute, Vinicius cut in from the left and slipped in the overlapping Ferland Mendy, whose cross to the back post gave Benzema a simple finish.

Atletico had been weakened shortly before when Alvaro Morata, perhaps the best player on the pitch in the first 45 minutes, went off with an injury. He was replaced by Thomas Lemar, whom Simeone expected to be sold in the January transfer window.

Real retreated a little, perhaps waiting for an Atletico push that never came.

Valverde enjoyed a spontaneous standing ovation for a burst forward, an appreciation too perhaps for his brilliant breakthrough season. Another roar of approval greeted the final whistle.

 

AFP

Ronaldo ‘Improving’ But In Doubt For Atletico Clash

File photo of Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo 
Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo remains in doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid in Turin, Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said on Monday.

The 34-year-old Portuguese international was rested for Saturday’s Serie A game against Atalanta which Juventus won 3-1 thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain double to stay top of the Italian league.

“Cristiano trained with his teammates yesterday (Sunday),” said Sarri.

“It seems that his condition is improving but we still have to evaluate between today and tomorrow.

“The positive thing he was able to play throughout the training session with his teammates.”

Defender Matthijs de Ligt, who suffered a dislocated shoulder, and forward Federico Bernardeschi, who bruised his chest, also need to be evaluated, Sarri said.

Ronaldo was substituted in Juventus’s previous two games including their Champions League game at Lokomotiv Moscow with a slight knee problem.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner and hit back with four goals to help Portugal qualify for Euro 2020.

“My relationship with Cristiano is good,” said Sarri, “if a player who has won so much is angry about being substituted, it means he still has a lot of motivation, and this is something positive.”

Juventus are already through to the last 16 and want to finish top of Group D with second-placed Atletico needing a win to guarantee their place.

“Atletico are a difficult side to play against, we have to think we want to qualify being the leader of the group that is our target for tomorrow,” said Sarri.

Sarri conceded he was spoilt for choice up front between Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Higuain.

“We have three very strong strikers for just two roles, I think it is an ideal situation, nobody will be able to play 65 matches, including with the national team,” continued the Juventus coach.

“Playing Dybala, Higuain and Cristiano all together is difficult because of their characteristics, but all three know how to play really well and are comfortable with each other.”

Higuain, who has scored five goals this season, sat alongside Sarri in the press conference, and praise his coach, who he also played under at Napoli and Chelsea.

“Obviously I spent some of the best season’s of my career with Mr Sarri, I know exactly what he wants,” said the 31-year-old Argentine who joined the veteran coach at Chelsea last season after an unhappy five-month loan spell at AC Milan.

“Compared to last year I had to change something in my head and he (Sarri) helped me a lot.

“Mentally and physically I’m in great shape and the manager has been helping me a lot.”

La Liga: Morata Scores As Atletico Hold Alaves To Draw

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Alvaro Morata (3L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Deportivo Alaves and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria on October 29, 2019. ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

Alvaro Morata scored his third goal in as many games but it was not enough for Atletico Madrid as they were hit by a stunning late equaliser on Tuesday in a 1-1 draw against Alaves. 

Morata came off the bench at Mendizorrotza and his smart finish looked like it would prove the winner in a tight contest between two of La Liga’s most stubborn defences.

But Atletico missed chances to add a second and were punished in the 83rd minute as Lucas Perez beat Jan Oblak with a superb long-range strike to earn Alaves a hard-earned point.

Diego Simeone had hailed Oblak as the best goalkeeper in the world after Atleti beat Athletic Bilbao on Saturday but there was little the Slovenian could do about one of the goals of the season so far.

Yet Atletico will still lament two points dropped and a result that leaves them fourth in the table, a point behind surprise leaders Granada.

Diego Costa had been dropped against Bilbao but was restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Morata, despite the Spaniard scoring last weekend and hitting the winner against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League last week.

With a difficult trip to Sevilla to come on Saturday, Simeone rested other key players too, like Thomas Partey and Koke, both of whom came on in the second half, as well as Kieran Trippier.

Alaves had conceded only one goal in their five previous homes games this season and chances were almost non-existent in the first half.

Both teams showed more ambition in the second 45 minutes though as Joselu headed wide for Alaves and Atletico’s Renan Lodi saw a shot whistle past the far post.

Morata came on in the 60th minute and was welcomed with a crunching challenge by Victor Laguardia but the striker was not deterred and struck the opener 10 minutes later.

It was a brilliant passage of forward play as he chested down Oblak’s punt up-field, played a slick one-two with Angel Correa before sliding in a cool finish.

He should have made it two soon after but a poor backpass went unpunished and Correa was then denied by the foot of Fernando Pacheco after some excellent work by Thomas.

The slender advantage left Atletico vulnerable and Lucas delivered the game’s stand-out moment seven minutes from the end. Saul Niguez and Lodi might have made it more difficult for the 31-year-old to cut in from the right but Lucas made the most of the space.

His stinging shot from 25 yards beat the right hand of Oblak and soared into the top corner.

New Signing Felix Shines As Atletico Beat Juventus

Atletico Madrid’s forward Joao Felix (C) shoots to score past Juventus’ goalkeeper Wojciech Tomasz Szczesny during the International Champions Cup football match between Atletico Madrid v Juventus on August 10, 2019 in Solna outside Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

 

Summer arrival Joao Felix scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Serie A winners Juventus 2-1 in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.

Forward Felix, 19, who cost the Spanish club 126 million euros ($142 million) in July and was bought to fill the void left by the departure of World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann, netted either side of Sami Khedira’s equaliser on 29 minutes.

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Brazilian right-back Danilo, who joined Juve on Wednesday, came off the bench to make his debut.

Two of Maurizio Sarri’s other summer signings in Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt started the fixture in Stockholm as did Cristiano Ronaldo but former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey remains sidelined with a thigh issue.

Juve begin their Scudetto title defence at Parma on August 24 and Atleti start their La Liga campaign next Sunday at home to Getafe.

AFP

Atletico Humble Real Madrid 7-3 In Friendly

Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez (4thR) brawls with players from Real Madrid during the 2019 International Champions Cup football match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Metlife Stadium Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 26, 2019. /AFP

 

Diego Costa scored four goals as Atletico Madrid embarrassed La Liga rivals Real Madrid 7-3 Friday in a pre-season friendly at MetLife Stadium.

Costa had a hat-trick by halftime and added one more goal before he was sent off in the 63rd, when both teams were reduced to 10 men after a testy shoving match.

“We started the game very poorly. In a top-level match such as this, we had a very bad start, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “The players are well aware and they’re disappointed.

“We don’t need to dwell on it, this is a pre-season game. They were better in every respect and that’s all there is to it.”

The first meeting outside of Europe between the Madrid rivals proved a dismal night for Zidane’s Real Madrid, who saw Serbian starlet Luka Jovic hobble off after an awkward collision with Atletico keeper Jan Oblak in the 24th minute.

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Zidane can only hope the news on his injury will be better than that on Marco Asensio, who could miss most if not all of the La Liga season after rupturing a knee ligament against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Portuguese 19-year-old Joao Felix, signed from Benfica this month for 126 million euros ($142 million), scored his first goal for Atletico, and helped set up two more.

Angel Correa also scored for Atletico, who had run the score to 5-0 at halftime and 6-0 before Real Madrid got one on the scoreboard before a packed house at the East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants.

Costa set the tone in the first minute. Put through in the area by Felix he fired across his body to make it 1-0.

Felix struck in the eighth, slotting home a ball that was cut back to him by Saul Niguez.

Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois could only watch Correa’s 19th-minute blast into the bottom left corner.

Costa bagged his second to make it 4-0 in the 28th, Saul winning the ball after a poor pass from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and sending a pass for Costa.

Costa made it 5-0 on the stroke of halftime, converting from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the area by Isco.

Atletico’s lead swelled to 6-0 in the 51st minute when Costa teamed with Felix for his fourth of the night, Felix slotting a pass through Real Madrid’s defence for Costa to arc over Keylor Navas.

Eden Hazard helped Real Madrid pull back a goal in the 59th with a cross that Nacho bundled over the line.

Minutes later Daniel Carvajal’s late challenge on Thomas Lemar saw tempers flare, with both Costa and Carvajal sent off.

Undeterred, Atletico grabbed their seventh goal in the 70th thanks’ to a superb solo run by Vitolo, who seized the ball from two defenders and beat two more to score.

Karim Benzema converted an 85th-minute penalty and Javi Hernandez scored in the 89th to trim the deficit, but there was little for Real Madrid to be proud of.

“I’m not concerned, but I’m hurt. You don’t play to lose. But we can’t be looking backwards, it was a bad game and now we have to focus on what went wrong so we can try and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Zidane.

Welsh star Gareth Bale — reportedly on the verge of a lucrative move to Chinese Super League outfit Jiangsu Suning — was sent on with less than half an hour remaining but couldn’t provide a spark.

Griezmann Booed As Levante Hold Atletico

Griezmann Booed As Levante Hold Atletico
Griezmann reacts during the match between Levante and Atletico Madrid at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on May 18, 2019. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Antoine Griezmann was jeered during his last game for Atletico Madrid and Rodrigo might have scored his final goal for the club as they came from behind to draw 2-2 against Levante in La Liga on Saturday. 

Griezmann received whistles at the City of Valencia Stadium from the visiting fans, who were also heard chanting “out, out, out” before goals from Sergio Camello and Rodrigo ensured Atletico at least ended the season with a draw.

“We had to highlight the work of the gladiators who are leaving,” Simeone said afterwards.

“Their greatest legacy is not the titles won, it is their commitment and respect. I love them very much.”

Simeone has dismissed fears of a mass exodus, despite both Diego Godin and Griezmann already announcing their departures, with the likes of Rodrigo, Juanfran and Filipe Luis all expected to follow.

If this was to be their farewell outing for Atletico, it was an underwhelming finale as Levante, who only secured safety from relegation last weekend, claimed a deserved point.

They might have been disappointed not to take all three after leading 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals from Erick Cabaco and Roger Marti before then playing against 10 men for the best part of 40 minutes after Angel Correa was sent off.

“We could have won 3-0, but we relaxed.” said Levante coach Paco Lopez.

Atletico fought back, Rodrigo firing into the top corner before 18-year-old substitute Camello scored his first goal for the club, finishing at the back post.

Simeone’s side finish second again with 76 points, three fewer than last season. They come in above Real Madrid for a second consecutive year but will end up 13 points behind Barcelona, if the Catalans win away at Eibar on Sunday.

Griezmann was unable to add to his tally of 133 goals in 257 games across all competitions in what became a bitter end to his five successful seasons for the club.

Godin was given a rousing goodbye ceremony at the Wanda Metropolitano last weekend but the timing of Griezmann’s announcement, perhaps deliberately, meant he avoided a last meeting with the Atleti fans.

But those that made the trip to Valencia were determined to make their displeasure known and it was noticeable that Griezmann made a swift exit after the final whistle.

Camello, born in Madrid and a product of Atletico’s academy, delivered a more positive message for the future and a timely reminder of Atletico’s ability to endure in recent years, despite the departures of their biggest stars.

“Football has no age limits,” Simeone added. “We will never stop making use of everything we can to ensure the club keeps growing.”

Levante took the lead through a brilliant opener from Cabaco, who flicked in with the back of his heel after a header back from Ruben Vezo.

Roger doubled the advantage shortly before half-time, intercepting a loose pass from Thomas Partey before skipping over Rodrigo and firing past Antonio Adan, who was standing in for the injured Jan Oblak.

Atletico’s task became more difficult when Correa was sent off for a petulant kick on Chema but Rodrigo gave them hope with a stunning strike into the top corner, before Koke’s shot fell kindly for Camello at the back post.

AFP

Atletico Win Five-Goal Thriller With Valencia To Delay Barca Celebrations

Atletico Win Five-Goal Thriller With Valencia To Delay Barca Celebrations
Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa (C) is congratulated for his goal by teammate Diego Godin (L) during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Valencia CF at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on April 24, 2019. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid delayed Barcelona winning La Liga by a few days at least after Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann each scored in a 3-2 victory over Valencia on Wednesday.

Defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano would have crowned Barca kings of Spain for a 26th time in their history, with the Catalans now set to celebrate at their own Camp Nou on Saturday instead.

A Barcelona win there over Levante will wrap up their fourth league triumph in five years and they could even be home and dry before kick-off, if Atletico fail to take a point at home to struggling Real Valladolid earlier in the day.

Regardless, success for Ernesto Valverde’s side is surely now only a matter of timing given Atletico remain nine points behind the leaders with four games left to play. Real Madrid, who visit Getafe on Thursday, are 16 adrift.

If Getafe win, they will also move five points ahead of Valencia, whose chances of snatching fourth place and Champions League qualification would now appear remote.

But there will be some satisfaction at least for Atletico in making Barcelona win it on their own terms while also avoiding the embarrassment of conceding the title with a loss in front of their home fans.

Angel Correa’s stunning strike in the 81st minute proved the winner after Valencia had fought back, Kevin Gameiro and a Dani Parejo penalty twice pulling them level after goals from Morata and Griezmann.

Morata’s early strike continued his excellent form since his move to Atletico in January, his finish at the back post taking his tally to six goals in 13 games for the club.

Griezmann, meanwhile, back from suspension, now has 25 goals in all competitions this season, an impressive return, particularly in a side not renowned for its creativity.

Atletico were ahead inside 10 minutes as Juanfran’s cross met the outstretched foot of Morata at the back post.

It was no less than they deserved for an aggressive opening but Valencia grew into the half and equalised shortly before half-time.

Francis Coquelin’s crossfield pass picked out Carlos Soler, who cushioned inside to Santi Mina. Mina flicked the ball brilliantly between Diego Godin and Stefan Savic before squaring to Gameiro, who had time to pick his spot.

Atletico regrouped during the interval and were back in front four minutes after, Griezmann jumping ahead of Jose Gaya to nod in Thomas Lemar’s cross.

But Valencia came again and a chaotic contest took another twist when Gameiro’s shot was shown by VAR to have been blocked by the arm of Saul Niguez. Parejo powered into the corner.

The game was in the balance as Griezmann glanced a header wide before Correa, on as a substitute, provided the winning touch. Thomas Partey played into his feet but Correa did the rest, turning, twisting and then bending the ball inside Neto’s left-hand post. Barca will have to wait.

AFP