Antoine Griezmann

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Vinicius, Mariano hand Real Madrid win in El Clasico, reclaim first place in Spain

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The season’s second version of El Clasico was setting itself up to have a dull, scoreless final result like its predecessor. But as the match turned the final corner, Real Madrid’s new-age attackers showcased what the new era is all about.

With two second-half goals from Vinicius Jr. and Mariano, Real Madrid edged rivals Barcelona 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. Los Blancos leapfrog Quique Setien’s side to take control of La Liga, as the total point count reaches 56.

Held back by an unimaginative Lionel Messi and laudable defensive efforts from the hosts, it’s the first time in 45 years that Barcelona don’t score a league goal against Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane’s side was persistent on generating goalscoring opportunities, but were met by a solid Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the sticks.

In the 71st minute, however, Vinicius Jr. cracked the code, scoring with the help of a minor deflection. The Brazilian attacker is the first teenager to score in El Clasico since Messi.

50 seconds after coming off the bench, Mariano followed suit, recording his first goal of the season in grand style. It was the 26-year-old’s first appearance and first shot of the season.

In typical fashion under Setien, Barcelona managed possession and the rhythm of the match. But Messi and Antoine Griezmann failed to sync, lacking to generate many dangerous chances at goal.

The win proves to be vital for Madrid, who were coming off loses to Levante and Manchester City in Champions League play.

La Liga roundup: Greizmann snaps scoreless streak as Barcelona hold off Getafe

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Barcelona’s close win against third-place Getafe highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 2-1 Getafe

Barcelona are level at 52 points with league leaders and rivals Real Madrid, as Antoine Griezmann, who ended a five-match scoreless run in La Liga, and Sergio Roberto added a goal in Saturday’s 2-1 win.

Lionel Messi – on his official 350th Camp Nou appearance – assisted Griezmann for the first the first goal at the 33rd minute, extending his season total count to 12.

“I’ve been here six months, we still have to learn,” the Frenchman said following the victory. “I have to learn [Messi’s] movements and he has to learn mine. We’re enjoying the work we put in together and it’s getting better and better all the time. I’m very happy and really enjoying myself here.”

Quique Setien’s side got off to a lethargic start, and were in trouble in several occasions, but managed to conserve their two, first-half goals against an inspired Getafe, who went into Camp Nou on the back of a four-match La Liga winning streak.

Jordi Alba left the field at 22nd minute mark after suffering a right abductor injury. Junior Firpo, who has yet to find his footing in Barcelona, replaced the veteran fullback.

Barca-linked Angel Rodriguez was the only Getafe representative to put the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who along with VAR, saved the home side from conceding a pair of goals throughout the night.

Barca, who await for Real Madrid’s outcome on Sunday, set sights on Saturday’s bout against Eibar, while Getafe feature Thursday in the Round of 32 of the Europa League against Ajax.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Mallorca 1-0 Alaves

Villarreal 2-1 Levante 

Granada 2-1 Real Valladolid

Valverde questioned after another late collapse by Barcelona

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Barcelona had once again played great, led through goals by Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, yet still managed to let it slip away.

Barcelona squandered one of its best performances of the season by conceding two late goals to Atletico Madrid, falling 3-2 in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Messi had equalized after Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion scored for Atletico, and Griezmann put Barcelona deservedly ahead 2-1. But the goalkeeping of Jan Oblak, Atletico’s star this season, kept Barcelona out the rest of the way while Alvaro Morata leveled with a penalty kick in the 82nd minute and Angel Correa completed the dramatic turnaround in the 86th.

For Barcelona, the chance to add a minor trophy from a mini-tournament played thousands of miles away is not the main worry. The concern is Barcelona’s odd knack of losing control of games that look like a sure victory. Whether it’s a question of overconfidence, a lack of fitness or just momentary lapses that cost the team dearly, the pressure is on coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi and other team leaders defended Valverde, whose very good overall record at Barcelona has been blemished by shocking defeats.

“It’s normal that when you lose and don’t reach your objectives, and when our fans see that the team is not playing like they would like, that people talk and say things,” Messi said. “We have to be more united than ever, remain a strong group and get through this.

“This year will we try to play like we did today (before the late goals) and not commit childish errors like those we committed today.”

Barcelona’s loss at the King Abdullah Sports City on Thursday came five days after it conceded an 88th-minute equalizer at Espanyol in the Spanish league. The late goal by Wu Lei also came on a desperate counterattack similar to both of Atletico’s late attacks that led to goals, when Barcelona’s backline was out of sync and let a pass through to a player with only goalkeeper Neto to beat. Wu’s goal ruined a superb match by Luis Suarez, who had scored with a fine touch and made a difficult pass for an assist.

Suarez also backed Valverde on Thursday by taking the blame for the stumble against Atletico.

“This loss shows we have room to improve,” the Uruguay striker said. “It shows us that there are mistakes that we can’t make because we were in charge of the game and we let them mount counterattacks. But the coach is not at fault; they were mistakes that we made.”

Barcelona has drawn three of its last four league matches, but still lead the competition on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid. The team was leading before finishing 2-2 at Real Sociedad last month; lost 3-1 at Levante after Messi had put them ahead in November; and gave up a goal in the 81st in a 2-2 draw at Osasuna in August.

Those setbacks would not be as worrisome for Barcelona if the team had not completely collapsed in the Champions League in recent seasons, most recently a humiliating 4-0 loss at Liverpool after winning the first leg of the semifinals 3-0. Valverde’s job was then in even more jeopardy at the end of last season after Barcelona lost the Copa del Rey final to Valencia, casting a shadow of doubt over the Spanish league champions. Club president Josep Bartomeu, however, has stuck by the former player who is known for his intelligence and unflappable attitude.

Valverde is in his third season at Barcelona. He has won back-to-back Spanish league titles and one Copa del Rey final. A European Cup has eluded him.

Valverde said he was used to the criticism as part of a job that was never secure.

“We coaches always work with the idea of giving it our all to each match,” Valverde said. “We know how soccer is and that there is a permanent instability in teams when you are not getting good results or when you lose. Now that we have lost I suppose people will talk about it, but I remain focused on my job.”

Valverde’s next job is to prepare for the visit of Granada on Jan. 19.

In the meantime, Atletico will face crosstown rival Real Madrid in the Super Cup final on Sunday.

Griezmann pledges allegiance to Simeone’s Atleti

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Frenchman Antoine Griezmann could have his choice of clubs should he want to leave Atletico Madrid. There’s little doubt about that.

The exhilarating 25-year-old striker has 22 La Liga goals in each of his two seasons at the Vicente Calderon, and has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United amongst others.

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Speaking to Telefoot while on France duty, Griezmann says he doesn’t have interest in playing for anyone other than Diego Simeone right now. As long as El Cholo is managing Atleti, Griezmann will be there.

From Goal.com:

“The only doubt would be if Simeone leaves for PSG or wherever,” he told Telefoot. “I called him before extending my contract and he confirmed to me that he was staying. I can learn a lot from him.

“PSG are not my goal at the moment. I’m happy in Spain. I’m always proud to be popular with the fans. I try to smile and do my best. If they like it, it’s even better.”

That’s tremendous news for Atleti, which has struggled while waiting for Griezmann to be available after a long summer of EURO 2016. Atleti opened the season with promoted clubs Alaves and Leganes, and has drawn both.