MADRID: Atletico Madrid haven’t flinched in their quest to win La Liga for the first time since 2014.
Coming from behind for a second straight time, Atletico defeated Valencia 3-1 on Sunday to strengthen their hold on the league lead entering the second half of the season.
Barcelona earlier picked up their second win in a row without the suspended Lionel Messi, defeating Elche 2-0 to regain third place.
Joao Felix, Luis Suarez and Angel Correa scored to give Atletico their seventh straight league win and a seven-point gap to second-placed Real Madrid with a game in hand. Diego Simeone’s team are 10 points ahead of Barca.
Atletico had also needed to rally to win their previous league match, against Eibar.
“We started behind again but this team always fights until the end and thankfully we ended with the victory,” Felix said. “We can’t get too caught up with the lead that we have now. We have to stayed focused match after match.”
Valencia opened the scoring with a beautiful curling long-range shot by Uros Racic in the 11th minute, but Felix equalised off a corner kick in the 23rd and Suarez put the hosts ahead with a well-placed low shot into the far corner in the 54th from a Felix pass. Correa sealed the victory by completing a cross from Marcos Llorente in the 72nd.
Valencia, who were unbeaten in five matches in all competitions, stayed in 14th place. They have the same 20 points as Alaves, the first team inside the relegation zone after 20 matches.
Barca won again without Messi as goals from Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig were enough to secure a scruffy win over Elche.
De Jong poked the ball over the line just before half-time at the Martinez Valero, which would have proved a suitably scrappy winner before Puig came off the bench to head in a second late on.
Elche, winless in their last 13 league games, are second-to-last in the 20-team standings.
Celta Vigo were held 1-1 against Eibar to extend their winless streak to five matches in all competitions. Celta sit in ninth-place, while Eibar stayed 15th, not far from the relegation zone.
Ante Budimir scored a pair of first-half goals as Osasuna snapped their own 13-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over Granada. The win moved Osasuna out of the relegation zone, while Granada stayed in seventh place.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021