Atletico Madrid were rewarded for their determination when they snatched a 1-0 win at Valencia thanks to a late own goal to go level on points with La Liga leaders Real Sociedad yesterday. The visitors had carved out chance after chance with no recompense until Yannick Carrasco cut into the box and his cross bounced off the flailing leg of Valencia defender Toni Lato and trickled into the net in the 79th minute.
The own goal was fortuitous but certainly deserved after Diego Simeone’s side had dominated possession and fired 14 shots at goal, denied by Valencia’s in-form keeper Jaume Domenech and a goal-line clearance by defender Daniel Wass.
It gave second-placed Atletico a sixth consecutive La Liga victory and saw them move on to 23 points after nine games. They are level with leaders Sociedad who have played 10 and are in action today at home to Villarreal.
“Their best player was their goalkeeper which says a lot about what happened in the game,” said Atletico coach Simeone, who was visibly emotional during the minute’s silence before the game in tribute to his old friend Diego Maradona. “We felt very good today, we played in their half for long periods and got very close to scoring before we did. Winning in Valencia is not easy at all.”
Atletico had pulled off a momentous first league win over Barcelona last week but paid for their efforts when they drew 0-0 at home to Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday despite dominating the game.
Their trip to Mestalla, where they had not won since 2016, followed a similar script in the first half as Jaume made two early saves to deny Lemar and also thwarted Angel Correa. Jose Gimenez missed the target with a free header and Marcos Llorente fired just wide of the post right before halftime.
Valencia, who had beaten Real Madrid 4-1 in their last home game, could hardly cope with their opponents and had only a handful of attempts in the game. Serbian midfielder Uros Racic came closest to scoring but saw his shot beaten away by Atleti keeper Jan Oblak, who also had to react quickly to catch a header from his own team mate Lemar to prevent an own goal.
Atletico, still missing Luis Suarez due to Covid-19 and Diego Costa with a muscle injury, turned to 126-million-euro forward Joao Felix after the break but Valencia continued to show resilience until Lato sent Carrasco’s cross into his own net.
Next up for Atletico is Tuesday’s crucial Champions League Group A game at home to holders Bayern Munich, which they need to win to keep them in the running for a place in the last 16.
La Liga results
Valencia 0 Atletico Madrid 1 (Lato 79-og); Elche 1 (Boye 38) Cadiz 1 (Gimenez 55)
Playing Today: Barcelona v Osasuna (1300) Getafe v Athletic Bilbao (1515) Celta Vigo v Granada (1730) Real Sociedad v Villarreal, Real Betis v Eibar
Played Friday: Real Valladolid 1 (Marcos Andre 57) Levante 1 (Campana 83-pen)
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