Deportivo Alaves 0 Atletico Madrid 4: Costa curler helps Simeone's side back to winning ways
Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways with a stylish 4-0 victory over Champions League-chasing Deportivo Alaves at Mendizorroza on Saturday.
Goals from Saul Niguez, Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Thomas Partey were enough to send Atletico back to within 10 points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona and five ahead of third-place Real Madrid, who play on Sunday.
It was a commendable display from the visitors, who lost back-to-back matches to Juventus and Athletic Bilbao before the international break to effectively end their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy to add to last August's UEFA Super Cup triumph.
Saul, having been denied by a good Fernando Pacheco save, had better luck with only five minutes played when he drilled a left-footed shot beneath the goalkeeper after being sent clear by Antoine Griezmann.
4 - @atletienglish's Antoine Griezmann is the fourth @LaLigaEN player to reach double figures for both goals (18) and assists (10) this season in all competitions, after Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Pablo Sarabia. Critical. pic.twitter.com/fXCVqjLpPJ— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 30, 2019
Atleti doubled their lead only six minutes later, Costa collecting Koke's pass 25 yards out before bending a fine strike beyond the static Pacheco and in off the right-hand post for his first league goal since November.
The visitors eased off and nearly paid the price before the break, with Saul heading the ball off the line after Tomas Pina flicked on a corner, and Alaves were furious when Thomas Lemar escaped a second yellow card for a high foot as their pressure continued in the second half.
Those frustrations were compounded moments later when Lemar slid a fine throughball into the path of Morata, who side-footed past Pacheco with aplomb from 12 yards.
Pacheco denied Griezmann a fourth with a fine one-handed stop that sent his attempted chip onto the left-hand post, but Diego Simeone's side reserved their best moment until last, with Thomas bending a stunning strike in off the woodwork with six minutes left.
What does it mean? Atleti restore order after turbulent two weeks
Crashing out of the Champions League to Juventus, losing 2-0 to Athletic and seeing Lucas Hernandez agree to an €80million move to Bayern Munich all in the last two weeks must have hurt the Atletico camp.
With that in mind, their performance here was particularly impressive, and might just serve as a reminder that it need not be all doom and gloom at the Wanda Metropolitano, even if leaders Barca are 10 points clear at the top.
For Alaves, this was something of a missed opportunity, with Getafe's loss to Leganes earlier meaning they could have gone fourth had they beaten Atleti.
Griezmann brings graft and guile
Playing on the right once more, Griezmann did a lot of good defensive work to cover for Juanfran on top of his typically creative attacking display. He created three chances, earned one assist and was inches from a goal of his own.
Brasanac move backfires
Darko Brasanac was given the nod on the Alaves right ahead of Takashi Inui, and he did not repay Abelardo's faith, offering little in attack and not much cover against Saul before being replaced after less than an hour.
Atleti host Girona on Tuesday before next Saturday's showdown with Barca at Camp Nou. Alaves are next in action on Thursday, away to Sevilla.