Antoine Griezmann once again returned to haunt his former club as Atletico Madrid ground out a 2-0 Liga win over nine-man Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Griezmann, who netted when Atletico won by the same scoreline in the two teams’ meeting in the Spanish capital last season, scored a stunning ninth-minute solo effort at the Anoeta.
The contest fell some way short of such excellence thereafter, with Diego Simeone’s men struggling for fluency as they tasted victory for the first time in four outings across all competitions.
An ill-tempered contest ended with the hosts at a numerical disadvantage – Diego Reyes and Jonathas talking their way into red cards either side of Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco’s first goal for Atleti doubling the visitors’ lead and sealing the points.
David Moyes’ Sociedad remain precariously placed in 16th, with six points from eight matches and only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
The gap between Atletico and three-way leaders Real Madrid, Celta Vigo and Barcelona is down to two points.
Atletico started the match in confident fashion and, after the fit-again Koke headed wide from a Filipe Luis cross, Griezmann majestically opened the scoring.
The France international displayed pace and poise to breeze past Asier Illarramendi and Diego Reyes before lifting a delicate finish over Geronimo Rulli for his sixth of the season.
David Zurutuza hooked a volley over from inside the Atletico area as the hosts sought an immediate response and they came much closer when Sergio Canales sent a free-kick from 25 yards out just beyond the right-hand post in the 17th minute.
Canales’ next dead-ball attempt was thwarted by the Atleti wall, while Griezmann saw a free-kick of his own deflected behind 10 minutes before the interval.
The five yellow cards shown by referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva at that stage were indicative of an increasingly scrappy contest, with tempers on both sides coming close to boiling over as half-time approached.
Jackson Martinez, preferred up-front by Simeone to Fernando Torres, scuffed wide under pressure from Inigo Torres in the 48th minute, although Sociedad made a far more assertive start to the second period.
Markel Bergara, one of the players in the book, was perhaps fortunate to remain on the field when he clattered into Jan Oblak at a set-piece and the hosts continued to struggle in their quest to fashion clear chances.
When they came close to levelling with an hour played it was down to Jackson Martinez getting in front of his goalkeeper and almost glancing a corner into his own net.
A lacklustre outing for the Colombia international ended shortly afterwards when Torres entered the fray, but he was ill-served in terms of service, the majority of the action remaining inside the Atletico half.
Filipe hacked clear from the goalmouth as Atleti again defended a corner unconvincingly before Oblak denied substitute Bruma in the 84th minute.
Reyes directed his apparent frustration with Atletico’s time-wasting tactics towards the referee and was sent off in the 89th minute, triggering further controversy in injury time.
Substitute Jonathas had a penalty claim waved away, with Torres breaking and feeding Ferreira-Carrasco to round Rulli and score, and the enraged forward complained to the extent that he received two bookings in a matter of seconds to conclude a dispiriting afternoon for Moyes’ men.