Atletico Madrid bounced back from their dramatic UEFA Champions League exit as Antoine Griezmann continued his rich vein of form
with a brace in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Elche in La Liga.
Having suffered late heartache against fierce rivals Real Madrid on Wednesday, Griezmann’s second-half double and Raul Garcia’s strike ensured the champions’ grip on third was tightened.
It was by no means a vintage performance from Atletico, however, as coach Diego Simeone watched a laborious first-half display from the stands following his sending off against Deportivo La Coruna.
Seemingly jolted into life at the break, Atletico were much-improved in the second period and, following a couple of wasted chances, the breakthrough finally arrived with 55 minutes on the clock.
Unsurprisingly it was Griezmann who found the net, his seventh goal in five league games and 21st for the season, before Garcia doubled the advantage eight minutes later.
The third came 13 minutes from time, with Griezmann stabbing home to open up a seven-point gap ahead of Valencia, who host Granada on Monday.
Atletico’s attempts to put Wednesday’s cruel finish behind them certainly did not get off to the start Simeone would have wished for, as Elche began the brighter of the two teams.
The first chance arrived in the 10th minute and it fell to the visitors, Adrian firing agonisingly wide of the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area.
Despite enjoying the better start, Elche only remained level in the 19th minute thanks to a fine reflex save from goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, palming the ball wide after Guilherme Siqueira’s low cross took a hefty deflection.
Atletico eventually began to dictate proceedings and Fernando Torres should have capitalised in the 38th minute.
The former Chelsea man raced beyond the Elche defence to collect Koke’s sumptuous delivery from the left, but his first-time effort was smashed over from 10 yards.
Atletico began the second half with renewed urgency and crafted two decent chances in the opening four minutes.
Griezmann, who was quiet before the break, was the first to go close, sending Siqueira’s cross over from inside the box, before Torres saw his close-range effort smothered by Tyton.
Atletico’s improvement was rewarded 10 minutes into the second half, though, as Griezmann nodded in from a few yards out after Tyton produced a fine save to deny Gabi.
Elche had rarely threatened the Atletico goal in the opening hour and their chances of an unlikely win were all but vanquished with 27 minutes to go, Garcia squeezing a 25-yard effort inside Tyton’s left-hand post.
Atletico rounded off a good second-half display by scoring a third in the 77th minute, Griezmann prodding Saul’s pass home from close range to seal a routine win.