La Liga roundup: Atleti snap poor run of results, still sit 6th

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid beat Las Palmas 1-0 to snap a three-game winless streak and avoid losing more ground to the leaders in the Spanish league on Saturday ahead of the winter break.

Saul Niguez scored with a well-placed shot from outside the area in the 59th minute at Vicente Calderon Stadium, hitting the far corner with a curling left-foot shot to put an end to the team’s recent struggles.

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“This goal comes at the right time in what has been an up-and-down season,” Niguez said. “It helped the team win and it brings confidence.”

Diego Simeone’s squad was coming off a 3-0 loss to Villarreal and a 0-0 home draw against Espanyol in the league. It also lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, a result that kept the team from finishing the group stage with a perfect record.

“It was an extraordinary year,” coach Simeone said. “We have to improve in the league, it’s true, but our fans should be proud of the year that we had.”

Atletico remained sixth in the league, nine points behind leader Real Madrid, which was in the Club World Cup final in Japan.

Third-place Barcelona, six points off the lead, hosts Espanyol on Sunday.

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Striker Luciano Vietto scored a pair three minutes apart in the first half to lead 10-man Sevilla to victory.

Ben Yedder and Victor “Vitolo” Machin also scored before halftime as the hosts won for the fourth time in their last five league matches.

Malaga scored through forward Sandro in the 62nd, just a couple of minutes after Sevilla defender Adil Rami was sent off for a second yellow card.

Sevilla was second in the standings while Malaga, winless in three matches, stayed 11th.

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Villarreal stayed near the top with a comfortable win over struggling Sporting in Gijon.

Jonathan dos Santos, Nicola Sansone and Alexandre Pato scored in Villarreal’s first away win since September.

Sporting’s consolation goal was by Carlos Carmona in the 89th.

The result marked Sporting’s fifth loss in its last six games, leaving the club 18th in the 20-team standings, inside the relegation zone.

Real Sociedad got goals from Jon Bautista and Juanmi in the second half to win its second in a row and lie fifth.

Granada, which has won only one game in the league so far, stayed with nine points after 16 matches, two points ahead of last-place Osasuna.