Álvaro Morata

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Costa and Felix score as Atletico Madrid ends winless streak

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MADRID (AP) Diego Costa and Joao Felix scored a goal each as Atletico Madrid defeated promoted Mallorca 2-0 on Wednesday to halt a three-game winless streak and move back to the top of the Spanish league standings.

Costa scored his first goal of the season with a first-half header in Mallorca, and Felix sealed the victory after halftime.

Atletico has 13 points from six matches, one point more than Athletic Bilbao, which lost the lead after being held to a 1-1 draw at last-place Leganes.

Real Madrid can move past both Atletico and Athletic if it beats promoted Osasuna at home later on Wednesday.

Atletico hosts Real Madrid on Saturday.

Diego Simeone’s team had drawn its last two matches, against Celta Vigo in the league and Juventus in the Champions League, both at home. It lost at Real Sociedad in its previous league match.

Atletico played with 10 men against Mallorca from the 77th minute as striker Alvaro Morata was sent off following an altercation with an opponent. Morata had replaced Costa in the 69th.

Costa, who missed the beginning of the season because of an injury, opened the scoring with a firm header in the 26th. Felix added to the lead in the 64th after his shot from inside the area deflected on a defender and went over the Mallorca goalkeeper. It was the second goal of the season for Felix, the 19-year-old Portugal forward who joined from Benfica in the offseason.

Japanese teenager Takefusa Kubo, playing for Mallorca on a loan from Real Madrid, nearly scored for the hosts with a second-half shot that hit the post.

Mallorca, 17th in the 20-team standings with four points, has lost two in a row and hasn’t won since the opener against second-to-last-place Eibar.

UNBEATEN ATHLETIC

Athletic Bilbao took the lead at Leganes with a penalty converted by Raul Garcia in the 59th, but Oscar Rodriguez equalized two minutes later with a well-placed free kick.

The result kept Athletic as one of the three teams without a loss, along with Real Madrid and Osasuna. Leganes is yet to win after six matches and has only two points from six matches.

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La Liga roundup: Griezmann shines in Barcelona’s 5-2 drubbing of Betis

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Wins from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid highlight La Liga’s Sunday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 5-2 Real Betis

Antoine Griezmann’s Camp Nou debut was one for the books.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez sidelined with injuries, the floor was all Griezmann’s. He didn’t disappoint.

Down 1-0, Griezmann, sneaking past his markers inside the box, acrobatically tapped a lofting ball from Sergi Roberto into the back of the net.

The best was yet to come, however.

In the second half, as Barcelona pinned Real Betis back in their defensive third, the Frenchman’s magic came to life.

Soon after, the floodgates opened – Barcelona’s skill effortlessly began to pick apart a weaker Betis side. Just 30 minutes after the 28-year-old’s second goal, Ernesto Valverde’s side posed a 5-1 lead.

Loren Moron’s superb strike gave Betis a second, but the defending champions had already done the damage behind goals from Carles Perez, Jordi Alba, Arturo Vidal and Griezmann.

With Sunday’s performance in mind, how will Barcelona function with Messi, Suarez and Griezmann spearheading the attack?

Osasuna may soon find that out firsthand as they host the Catalonians next. Elsewhere, looking for their first points of the season, Betis host Leganes.

Leganes 0-1 Atletico Madrid 

With a goal in the 70th minute, Vitolo played the unlikely hero for Atletico Madrid in their 1-0 win over Leganes.

Following a smooth lay-off from Joao Felix, the 29-year-old calmly slotted the ball past Juan Soriano, ten minutes after replacing Mario Hermoso.

The goal certainly meant a lot to Vitolo and Atletico Madrid, who along with Sevilla, are one of two teams to start the season with six points after two matchweeks.

Although not entirely dominant throughout the course of the match, the home side was inches from stripping two points from Los Colchoneros with Jonathan Silva’s free-kick hitting the crossbar.

Despite having a pair of clear-cut opportunities on Sunday, Atletico’s $142 million summer signing is yet to celebrate his first La Liga goal. Alvaro Morata, too, is waiting to catch fire.

With Atletico hosting an underperforming Eibar next, the narrative that Simeone’s side is lacking efficiency in the attack can soon fall flat. On the other hand, no points to their name, will look to exploit a confidence-battered Real Betis.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Alaves 0-0 Espanyol

RCD Mallorca 0-1 Real Sociedad

Chelsea, Atleti agree permanent move for Morata following loan

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MADRID (AP) Spain striker Alvaro Morata is moving to Atletico Madrid on a permanent deal from Chelsea, ending a disappointing two years in England.

[ MORE: Man United “in the process” of selling Paul Pogba ]

Chelsea announced the transfer of Morata on Saturday. He was on loan at Atletico for the second half of last season and was due to continue there until the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

Morata joined Chelsea from Real Madrid for a then-club record of $75 million in 2017. He never established himself as a regular starter, scoring 24 times in 72 appearances.

[ MORE: Barcelona president says Antoine Griezmann talks underway ]

Morata played in Atletico’s youth program before joining Real Madrid’s academy in 2008.

La Liga: Morata double helps Atletico Madrid keep La Liga pace

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A pair of Alvaro Morata headers was all Atletico Madrid needed to move past Real Sociedad 2-0 and keep pace with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table.

Morata scored his brace three minutes apart just past the half-hour mark, setting Atleti up for the rest of the match. They would fall a man down on 61 minutes as Koke earned his second yellow card, but they held on for not just the win but the clean sheet as well. Thanks in large part to the half-hour man advantage, Real Sociedad out-shot Madrid 19-8, but could only muster three on target.

The win leaves Atleti seven behind Barcelona, but keeps pace with the La Liga leaders with 12 matches to go. Atletico has won three games in a row and has the club’s third three-match league winning streak since the start of December after failing to generate one at all before that time.

Leandro Cabrera headed Getafe into the lead 20 minutes in, and Jaime Mata put the game away just before halftime in a 2-1 road win at Real Betis to keep the visitors in a Champions League place. While Betis held 65% of the possession, they managed just six total shots, with only two on target.

Eibar picked up all three points as Sergi Enrich scored in the 87th minute to secure a 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo. The home side completely dominated the match, pummeling relegation-threatened Celta Vigo with 15 shots, coming close multiple times in the second half including a 67th minute penalty miss by Charles before the late winner when Marc Cardona did all the hard work weaving through defenders down the left before his blocked shot fell right to Enrich on the doorstep for the tap-in.

The win does more harm to Celta Vigo than help Eibar, as the visitors are still just two points above the relegation zone. Eibar, meanwhile, sits in no-man’s land in ninth, eight back of a Champions League place and 11 above the drop.

Finally, in the late Sunday game, a timid first-half between Valencia and Athletic Bilbao gave way to a 2-0 win for the hosts as Rodrigo scored just after the break and Kevin Gameiro finished it off late. The victory moved Valencia up to seventh just a point behind Sevilla.

La Liga: Bale saves Real Madrid, Morata scores first Atletico goal

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Alvaro Morata finally grabbed his first Atletico Madrid goal to pave the way for a 2-0 win over Villareal at home. The former Chelsea man joined in January and had gone three league matches without finding the back of the net, but he whipped a 31st minute volley low into the bottom-left corner to open his account.

Saul added the second as the game wound down, looping a chip over the goalkeeper with two minutes to go. The hosts could have had more, but Jose Gimenez and Diego Costa both saw close-range headers saved by Sergio Asenjo in the second half. The win moved Atletico back within seven of Barcelona at the top of the table, and five ahead of third-placed Real Madrid before Los Blancos kicked off.

Real Madrid, however, was able to return the points gap to two as Santiago Solari made five changes from the side that fell last time out and Gareth Bale provided the difference from the spot in a 2-1 victory. Karim Benzema initially put Madrid ahead with a penalty of his own after VAR awarded the spot-kick. Luka Modric’s powerful cross crashed into Enis Bardhi’s arm who simply raised his hand to protect his face, and that allowed Benzema to send Aitor Fernandez the wrong way from the spot.

Levante equalized through Roger Marti’s 10th goal of the season, but there was plenty of controversy surrounding the winning moment. Casemiro went down in the penalty area under minimal (if any) contact, and despite the referee’s consultation of the video monitor at the behest of VAR, the penalty was awarded. Bale delivered the goods with 12 minutes to go, and Madrid took home all three points. Both teams finished with 10 men as Ruben Rochina earned his second yellow card in the 86th minute, and just two minutes later Madrid defender Nacho earned his marching orders as well.

Real Betis jumped to seventh in the La Liga table with a 2-0 away win at Real Valladolid. Betis scored both goals near the end of a half, as Aissa Mandi opened the scoring in first-half extra time with a beautiful scissor-kick after Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip came way too far off his line to challenge a free-kick delivery. Joaquin then left no doubt in the 87th minute, tapping home after Sergio Canales burst down the right and across the byline, cutting a cross that saw defender Kiko completely whiff at controlling before it reached Joaquin. The loss for the home side leaves them still in a precarious position, in 16th just three points above the drop.

Valencia was pegged back by a late Martin Braithwaite goal in a 1-1 draw at Leganes. The visitors had gone ahead in the 22nd minute via Gregory Kondogbia who headed home off a free-kick. That goal was Valencia’s only shot on target in the match, and their only real chance other than Jose Gaya’s 10th minute vicious effort that came off the far post. Leganes, meanwhile, pushed the whole match for an equalizer, and exploded forward as time ran out. Braithwaite equalized in the 88th minute before they nearly won it in stoppage time through Youssef En-Nesyri who saw his effort saved by Neto after a turnover.