Atletico beats Celta to stay in touch with Barca
BARCELONA, Spain — Adrian Lopez scored a late winner to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo on Friday, as Diego Simeone’s side stayed in touch with leader Barcelona at the top of Spanish standings.
Atletico’s ninth victory in as many home games this season trimmed the gap with the pacesetters to six points before Barcelona visits Valladolid on Saturday.
Also on Friday, Roberto Soldado scored one goal and set up another to guide Valencia to a 4-2 win over Getafe, earning new coach Ernesto Valverde his first three points at home.
Atletico started strongly at Vicente Calderon stadium with Jorge “Koke” Resurrecion hitting the upright in the 12th minute.
A regular starter last season, Adrian has seen his minutes on the pitch decrease with Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa leading Atletico’s usually potent attack.
But with his team stymied by Celta’s defense, Simeone sent on Adrian in the 72nd for a waning Costa. And the move paid off five minutes later when the striker let rip a left-footed shot from the edge of the box that flew into the corner of the net.
“They were clear about the kind of game they wanted to play. It’s always tough to pull out a game like this one,” Adrian said. “This goal gives me a boost of confidence.”
Atletico made it through the final five minutes with 10 men after defender Miranda received his second booking.
Falcao, who had scored six goals in the previous two rounds, was unable to add to his season tally of 17 league goals, second only to Barcelona forward Lionel Messi with 25.
The Colombia striker will miss Atletico’s next game at Mallorca following the winter break after picking up his fifth yellow card of this season.
Celta recorded its eighth defeat in nine away games. The promoted club is in 15th place, two points above the relegation zone.
Earlier at Mestalla stadium, Sofiane Feghouli created Valencia’s first goal just seconds after the start when he stole the ball and picked Soldado out in the area to head in his cross.
Soldado then combined with Jonas in the seventh minute with a precise one-two for the Brazil forward to double the lead.
Getafe striker Alvaro Vazquez pulled one back in the 13th before the visitors squandered two more clear chances to level. Ricardo Costa netted Valencia’s third goal in the 30th and Getafe’s Alexis Ruano made it 3-2 in the 59th, with both defenders scoring with headers from corner kicks.
Valencia finally shored up its defense before substitute Nelson Valdez made sure of victory in injury time.
“I didn’t expect to see a match with so many scoring opportunities,” said Valverde, who replaced the fired Mauricio Pellegrino earlier this month. “Until now we had played low-scoring games. The important thing is that the team kept fighting without thinking about the result.”
Getafe stayed in ninth place, while Valencia rose into 10th.
Valencia’s win came in a week marked by its fans’ growing discontent with a team that they feel is underachieving — despite having made the knockout phase of the Champions League where it will face French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain.
On Thursday, it was: Real Sociedad 2, Sevilla 1; Rayo Vallecano 3, Levante 0; and Espanyol 2, Deportivo La Coruna 0.
Also on Saturday, third-place Real Madrid visits fourth-place Malaga, Athletic Bilbao hosts Real Zaragoza, Mallorca visits Real Betis, and Osasuna plays Granada