Atletico Madrid moved back up to second in La Liga and maintained the pressure on leaders Barcelona by coming from behind to beat Espanyol 3-1 at Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres and Koke were on target for Diego Simeone’s side, who closed to within three points of Barca – in action at Real Sociedad later on Saturday.
Torres hit the post with an early effort but Espanyol took the lead after 28 minutes when Pape Diop superbly headed in Marco Asensio’s corner.
The scores were levelled by Torres shortly after Diop’s opener, the striker scoring for the third game in a row from Koke’s pass, before Oscar Duarte hit the crossbar.
Koke was involved again in Atletico’s second, recording his 12th assist of the season by playing in Griezmann for a well-taken finish.
And Koke netted the goal his performance deserved a minute from time, getting on the end of Torres’ cross to ensure Atletico kept pace with Barca at the top.
Atletico named a full-strength side despite Wednesday’s upcoming Champions League quarter-final second leg against the Catalan giants and they made a bright start.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco shot wide after 11 minutes, then Torres, after his first-leg goal and red card against Barca, burst into the box but saw his effort clip the outside of the post.
Gerard Moreno’s shot was saved by Jan Oblak and Atletico’s goalkeeper then turned Ruben Duarte’s low cross around the post, but Espanyol scored from the resulting corner.
Diop got up highest at the near post to flash a superb header across Oblak, but the lead lasted just six minutes as Torres superbly controlled a Koke pass on his chest before firing in a low finish.
Espanyol almost scored again before half-time as Atletico failed to defend from another set-piece, but Oscar Duarte’s lobbed effort hit the top of the crossbar.
But Atletico edged in front after 57 minutes, with Griezmann on target for the seventh successive La Liga match.
Torres and Koke linked up to free the France international in the box and he made no mistake with a cool finish that went in off the far post for his 20th league goal of the season.
Simeone withdrew Griezmann and Carrasco immediately after that goal and Torres went close to adding a third with a sensational effort after 69 minutes, before Pau brilliantly saved Koke’s volley.
Espanyol had won successive home games but there were few signs of a fightback by the hosts, although Moreno forced a good save from Oblak with four minutes to go.
But it was Atletico who had the final say as Koke rounded off a terrific individual display by stooping to head in a Torres delivery.
Key Opta stats:
– Atletico Madrid have conceded in their last four games, their longest run conceding this season (all competitions).
– Koke has already claimed 12 assists in La Liga this season and he is one shy of equalling his best tally in a single season (13 in 2013-14).
– Atletico have conceded their first goal from a corner situation in a La Liga away game this season.
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