Antoine Griezmann’s early strike was enough to extend Atletico Madrid’s unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions as Diego Simeone’s men ran-out 1-0 winners against Espanyol in La Liga.
Fresh from netting both goals in Atleti’s 2-0 Champions League victory over Galatasaray, Griezmann nudged the hosts ahead with an exquisite finish inside the opening three minutes.
Griezmann was denied a second soon after the break as Pau Lopez produced a terrific stop in the Espanyol goal.
Diego Godin then headed against the upright as the hosts searched for a second goal, with Espanyol unable to fashion any notable opportunities, with Atleti dominating possession.
The victory was marred somewhat for Simeone by an injury to Tiago midway through the first half – the veteran midfielder having to be taken to hospital with an apparent knee injury.
But, despite being shorn of one of their key figures, Atleti had little trouble in containing Espanyol as they kept within touching distance of league leaders Barcelona.
Simeone made four changes to the Atleti side that secured qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek and one of those, Oliver Torres, unlocked Espanyol’s leaky defence just three minutes in.
Torres slipped in a precise cross to the feet Griezmann, who turned the ball expertly into the bottom-left corner with the outside of his boot.
Griezmann almost turned provider soon after, but his smart lay-off to Luciano Vietto
was smothered by the well-positioned Lopez.
Atleti suffered a blow shortly before the half-hour mark, with Tiago, who has been a constant in midfield for Simeone so far this term, having to be taken off on a stretcher following a collision with Marco Asensio.
Juanfran should have done better when he picked up possession on the edge of the area on the stroke of half-time, but his tame strike was gathered in with ease by Lopez.
Lopez pulled off an instinctive save to parry away Griezmann’s close-range effort shortly after the restart, with Filipe Luis’ goal-bound strike having been blocked by Alvaro Gonzalez just prior.
Espanyol’s goalkeeper was forced into action again around the hour mark, reacting sharply to tip Torres’ venomous effort over.
Griezmann came close to doubling his tally with a fantastic effort from 20 yards out late on, but Lopez was again equal to it, before Godin hit the woodwork with a powerful header.
But that miss mattered little as Atleti held firm against Espanyol’s lacklustre attack to secure a third consecutive league win and fifth consecutive clean sheet in Liga.
Key Opta stats:
– Antoine Griezmann has scored more first goals than any other player in La Liga this season (five).
– Atletico Madrid have kept more clean sheets than any other side in the top five European leagues in 2015 (20).
– Griezmann has scored four goals in his last four competitive games with Atletico.
– Atletico attempted 21 shots against Espanyol, more than in any other La Liga game this season.
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