Barcelona, February 19, 2023 (AFP) – Antoine Griezmann’s superb strike helped Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 on Sunday to strengthen their grip on fourth place in La Liga.
The French striker exchanged passes with Memphis Depay before bursting into the box and finishing clinically.
Atlético’s win helped them close the gap on third-placed Real Sociedad to two points, after the Basque side drew on Saturday.
Athletic played in their classic red-and-white striped kit, and Atlético in the away shirt, although Diego Simeone’s team was at home in the Metropolitano stadium.
The hosts wanted to pay tribute to celebrate Athletic’s 125th anniversary, as Atlético was formed as a subsidiary of Athletic in 1903.
Despite his winner against Celta Vigo last weekend, Depay started on the bench with Angel Correa and Griezmann up front for Atlético.
Simeone’s team opened the door but Athletic looked dangerous on the counter thanks to brothers Inaki and Nico Williams.
The reliable Reinildo Mandava defended well to help keep Athletic at bay, although they should have taken the lead through Dani García, but he fired wide of Jan Oblak’s goal.
At the other end, Yannick Carrasco shot Julen Agirrezabala when he could have sent Atlético ahead before the break.
The keeper denied Carrasco brilliantly in the second half, while Oblak also kept out a Nico Williams effort, with the teams level.
Finally, Griezmann made the difference when he combined with Depay, scoring his seventh league goal of the season and further confirming that he is back to his best.
Rayo Vallecano and visiting Sevilla drew 1-1, with the hosts, sixth, unable to exert maximum pressure on the sides above in the quest to secure European football next season.
Sevilla have struggled on the road in recent weeks, while their home form has helped them climb to mid-table after a poor start to the season.
Rayo came out of the blocks quickly, putting a lot of pressure on Sevilla in the early stages.
However, Jorge Sampaoli’s side went ahead in the game and took the lead in the 29th minute, when Suso from distance deflected Oscar Valentin.
Sergio Camello, on loan at Rayo from Atlético de Madrid, should have equalized for the home side, but he missed from close range early in the second half.
The home side didn’t have to wait long to find the net, Florian Lejeune heading unmarked from Izi Palazon’s corner.
There was drama at the end when both Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri and Raúl de Tomas do Rayo ruled out goals for offside.
Sergi Darder’s late goal gave Espanyol a 1-0 victory over bottom-of-the-table Elche.