Substitutes Fernando Torres and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco kept Atletico Madrid’s La Liga title hopes alive as they won 3-1 away to Valencia on Sunday.
Gary Neville’s side boasted a record of just one defeat in 12 home league meetings with Atletico, but they found themselves behind when Antoine Griezmann’s precise strike from distance evaded Diego Alves.
Valencia hit back soon after when Real Madrid loanee Denis Cheryshev finished a fine move to draw the scores level, and the Russian midfielder almost added a second before the break.
Atletico were in desperate need of a win to keep their title hopes alive given Barcelona’s victory at Eibar, but Valencia’s determination to record just a second home league win in nine led to an end-to-end and often scrappy encounter.
Alves made a superb save to deny Luciano Vietto from point-blank range before Diego Simeone threw on Torres and the fit-again Carrasco in an effort to force a winner, and the former Liverpool man prodded home from close range following a corner.
Carrasco added a third after Valencia were reduced to 10 men when Aderlan Santos was dismissed, meaning Atleti move back to within eight points of Barca and four clear of third-placed Madrid, with just 10 games left to play.
Atletico, who lost Diego Godin from the starting line-up to illness shortly before kick-off, found their rhythm first in a feisty opening quarter, and Griezmann had Alves at full stretch with a bouncing right-footed effort from the edge of the box, before Vietto skied a shot from the resulting corner.
The visitors silenced Mestalla less than two minutes later, as Griezmann collected Koke’s lay-off just outside the area before drilling a low shot past Alves and into the bottom-left corner.
But their celebrations proved short-lived. Paco Alcacer’s deft header turned Guilherme Siqueira’s clipped pass into the path of Cheryshev, who fired beyond Jan Oblak into the far corner from 12 yards.
Valencia were suddenly in the supremacy and Cheryshev shot narrowly over after another brilliant flick-on from captain Alcacer following Sofiane Feghouli’s curling long ball.
The game was end-to-end after the break as neither side looked ready to settle for a point, with Alcacer denied at close range by Oblak just moments after Griezmann almost set up Vietto for a simple finish.
Atleti’s attacking duo combined again when Griezmann nodded down into Vietto’s path, but Alves produced a stunning reaction save to tip the Argentinian’s half-volley onto the crossbar.
But Atleti were not to be denied for long as substitute Torres scored just nine minutes after coming on, poking home when completely unmarked at the back post after Jose Gimenez’s glancing header.
Valencia could not offer a second response and Carrasco struck the decisive blow shortly after Santos picked up his second booking of the game for bringing down Torres. The Belgian collected Griezmann’s pass and skipped into space in the area before firing low past Alves, who failed to get enough on the ball to keep it out.
Key Opta stats:
– Fernando Torres has been involved in more goals as a substitute than any other player in La Liga in 2015-16 (three goals, two assists).
– No other player has scored more first goals than Antoine Griezmann in La Liga this season (eight, level with Karim Benzema).
– Only Real Madrid (11) have scored more goals from outside the box than Atletico (seven) in La Liga this season.