Atletico Madrid

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La Liga: Torres lifts Atleti into 2nd, just 3 points behind Barca

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Fernando Torres’ first goal in the Spanish league this season gave Atletico Madrid a hard-fought 1-0 win over Alaves on Saturday and lifted the club into second place behind Barcelona.

Torres broke the deadlock five minutes after going on in the 69th with Atletico’s attack stifled by Alaves’ well-positioned defense.

Diego Simeone’s team took advantage of Valencia’s 2-1 loss at Eibar as Atletico moved two points ahead of its title rival. Barcelona is three points ahead of Atletico before hosting Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

“We didn’t have many chances to win the match, but were always in charge. The entry of (Angel) Correa, (Yannick) Carrasco and, especially, Torres gave us that extra bit that we needed to get the win,” Simeone said. “There is still a long way to go in the league. We only look toward our next game and keep trying to improve.”

Torres, a former Liverpool and Chelsea striker, made his run forward in sync with Sime Vrsaljko’s cross from the right flank before sliding to redirect the ball home with his left foot.

At 33 years old, Torres has had to settle for a role as a reserve player behind regular starters Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro. His goal was his first in any competition this campaign other than the brace he scored against Elche in the Copa del Rey.

Torres’ goal comes just before the arrival of even more competition in Atletico’s attack. Diego Costa and Victor “Vitolo” Machin will join the club in January when its ban on incorporating new players expires.

“I am happy for the goal that came after working so that the coach would play me,” Torres said. “Now I just have to keep at it to get more minutes.”

Despite its failure to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League, Atletico is as sound as ever in the domestic competition where it is unbeaten through 16 rounds and has won four in a row.

Atletico’s unbeaten streak in La Liga stretches back 20 matches to last season since its loss at Villarreal on April 25.

Valencia took another blow to its surprise challenge for the league lead after losing its second consecutive away game.

Valencia forward Santi Mina equalized in the 57th to cancel out Takashi Inui’s opener for Eibar just after halftime.

But Eibar midfielder Joan Jordan powered in a header from a cross by Ivan Alejo to grab the 2-1 victory for the hosts with three minutes remaining.

The absence of suspended striker Simone Zaza and injured midfielder Carlos Soler showed as Valencia again dropped points away from its Mestalla Stadium. Valencia’s 1-0 defeat at Getafe two rounds ago ended its unbeaten season.

“We didn’t have the scoring touch we needed to take the lead and they took advantage of our inability to finish,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said. “I don’t recall any other chances for Eibar other than the ones they turned into goals. We have to congratulate them for the win, but a draw would have been fair.”

After only one win in the first eight rounds, Eibar has won four and drawn one to rise to seventh place and in contention for a Europa League berth.

Chelsea 1-1 Atleti: Blues finish runners’ up in Group C

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Chelsea guided itself into the UEFA Champions League knockout phase on Tuesday after picking up a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.

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The result sees Antonio Conte‘s group finish atop Group C, while Atleti bail out of the competition after finishing the group stage with seven points.

The Blues’ pressure proved to be too much for Atleti to handle though, with the London side breaking through in the 74th minute via an own goal by Stefan Savic.

It was Eden Hazard‘s darting run into the Atleti penalty area and left-footed blast that put Savic in an inopportune position, before he guided the ball into his own net.

Atletico needed a victory to push its way through to the last 16, however, the draw sees the Spanish side into the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.

Diego Simeone’s nabbed a goal in the 56th minute after Fernando Torres‘ headed flick gave Saul a wide open look at the net.

Antoine Griezmann had nearly opened the scoring for Atletico just moments in the second stanza, when the French international tested Thibaut Courtois from a free kick.

Atleti keeper Jan Oblak was surely counting his blessings throughout the first half, as Alvaro Morata and Co. gave the Spanish back line fits in the attacking third.

Oblak made a brilliant lunging stop to prevent Davide Zappacosta from finding the bottom corner in the 37th minute, after Cesc Fabregas set up the sequence for Chelsea.

The Blues had their first big chance in the 17th minute, when Morata cleverly spun at the top of the box before unleashing a curling effort that narrowly missed the right corner.

UCL Tuesday: Desperation for Atleti, Juve

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Tuesday’s eight UEFA Champions League group stage finales have some intriguing match-ups that have been somewhat sapped of special intrigue.

There’s a pair of measuring stick games between giants, with Chelsea hosting Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in Bayern Munich.

[ MORE: Goretzka readies decision ]

Unfortunately, a bit of the drama has been pulled from both matches. Bayern would have to beat PSG by 3-0 or by four goals if Les Parisiens score (which they usually do) in order claim the group’s seeded space.

And while Chelsea is still playing for the group’s seeded place in the knockout rounds, Atletico Madrid needs a win and an unlikely Roma home loss to Qarabag to climb into Group C’s second place.

Manchester United is through with a point against CSKA Moscow, and still has myriad ways to advance should it lose at Old Trafford. If CSKA beats United, it would take something akin to 7-0 and a Basel win at eliminated Benfica.

Juventus is not yet through to the knockout rounds, and would sink to the Europa League were it to lose or draw at Olympiacos while Sporting CP scored a surprising win at Barcelona (though Barca has precious little at stake).

Full schedule
All matches at 2:45 p.m. ET

Manchester United vs. CSKA Moscow
Roma vs. Qarabag
Benfica vs. Basel
Barcelona vs. Sporting CP
Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid
Celtic vs. Anderlecht
Bayern Munich vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Olympiacos vs. Juventus

La Liga: Ronaldo’s late winner saves Real Madrid; Atleti cruise 5-0

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Real Madrid from another stumble at home when he scored after his penalty kick was saved to secure a 3-2 win over Malaga in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Ronaldo got the 75th-minute winner by knocking in the ball following Malaga goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez’s save. Jimenez denied him on two clear chances in the first half before Ronaldo finally got his second league goal in 13 rounds.

The win put Madrid seven points behind leader Barcelona, which faces an important trip to second-place Valencia on Sunday.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane blamed his team’s passing mistakes on why the defending Liga champions twice lost the lead to a team in the relegation zone, before finally taking control.

“We knew that possession of the ball is a weapon that we have, and we lost the ball several times,” Zidane said. “In the end … we have to focus on the result since we know that we did some things well and that there were some other things that didn’t go as we would have liked.”

Karim Benzema also netted just his second league goal to put Madrid ahead in the ninth when he nodded in a rebound of Ronaldo’s header that came off the crossbar.

Malaga hadn’t scored a goal in all six of its previous league games away from home, but it leveled through Diego Rolan in the 18th by capitalizing on an error by Madrid’s Toni Kroos. The Germany midfielder blundered with a back pass near his own area, and Sergio “Keko” Gontan pounced to send in a cross for unmarked Rolan to control with his chest and fire home.

Casemiro headed Madrid ahead again and Malaga forward Gonzalo “Chory” Castro made it 2-2 with a long-range strike.

Madrid was heading to another costly slip at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – where it failed to win the first three league matches – until substitute Luka Modric was tripped by Luis Hernandez in the area. That allowed Ronaldo to step up and take what turned out to be the winner.

Malaga lost defender Juan Carlos Perez to a left knee injury early.

“I believe we deserved much more (from the match),” said Malaga coach Michel Gonzalez, a former Madrid player.

“We are all worried about Juan Carlos’ knee because he is in a lot of pain, and that hurts us more than the loss.”

Kevin Gameiro scored twice and played a direct part in three more goals to lead Atletico Madrid’s 5-0 rout at Levante.

Atletico’s biggest win of the season allowed it to move ahead of Real Madrid and into third place on goal difference.

Antoine Griezmann also scored twice.

Real Betis salvaged a 2-2 draw at home with Girona after a wild finish that included goals from both teams in the dying moments.

Girona appeared set to get the win after Cristian “Portu” Portugues netted his second goal four minutes into stoppage time.

But just after the restart, Betis substitute Cristian Tello controlled a long ball with his chest, dribbled past a defender and slotted in a strike on the last kick of the match.

Ten-man Eibar dealt Alaves its 11th loss of the season after winning 2-1 on the road in a derby of small Basque Country clubs.

Charles scored Eibar’s second goal then received a direct red card for shoving the head of an Alaves player in the 83rd.

Antoine Griezmann reveals desire to play in MLS

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Antoine Griezmann is being chased by the biggest clubs in Europe and is the main attacking talent for the French national team.

He just signed a new deal with La Liga giants Atletico Madrid through the 2022 season and despite Manchester United and Barcelona, among others, linked with a move for the predatory striker, nobody really knows where the Frenchman will be beyond this season.

But which league does he want to play in, for sure? Major League Soccer. Yep. That’s right.

In his new book titled “Behind a Smile: The life of the Little Prince” Griezmann says that he wants to follow in the footsteps of his idol, David Beckham, and finish his career in MLS. Griezmann also stated his love for NBA star Derrick Rose and his admiration for David Villa, captain of NYCFC.

Given the fact that Griezmann is 26 years old, it could be some time before he arrives in MLS but maybe he will do so in time to become one of Beckham’s first handful of Designated Players at his long-awaited Miami franchise?

Given the fact that whenever he discusses a potential move to Man United he cites the cold weather as an issue against the transfer, it’s likely Griezmann would want to be in a warmer climate in MLS. His good friend from their time together at Real Sociedad, Carlos Vela, is swapping Spain for Los Angeles in a few months as LAFC’s first DP.

Take your pick, Antoine. LAFC? Miami? NYCFC? LA Galaxy? Atlanta United?

I’m sure anyone would want to sign in a few years on DP-level money if you keep scoring goals like this one last night against AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League…