Antoine Griezmann pulled the strings for Atletico Madrid when they smashed Ruben Baraja’s defenseless Valencia 3-0 in La Liga on Saturday.
The French striker opened the scoring for the locals at the Metropolitano and continued his great form with another great performance at the heart of Diego Simeone’s team.
Yannick Carrasco doubled Atlético’s lead early in the second half and Thomas Lemar sealed the victory, with the rojiblancos, third, six points behind fourth-placed Real Sociedad, after having played one more game.
The defeat leaves the beleaguered Che in 17th place, tied on 26 points with 18th-place Getafe, who host Sevilla on Sunday.
Atlético recorded a fifth win in six La Liga games and bolstered their grip on third place with a display of confidence, the kind they couldn’t find in the first half of the campaign.
“Before the World Cup, nothing was going for us and now everything is going,” Atlético midfielder Marcos Llorente told DAZN.
“The team is happy and eager to continue winning games, and the goal is to finish as high as possible.
“We know that the only thing we have left is LaLiga, so we will try to climb positions. Above us we have great teams, why not try to catch up with them?”
Memphis Depay wasted two good chances for Atlético before Griezmann broke the scoring after 23 minutes.
Llorente dove forward and fed the striker, and while there was a lucky break on his first touch, which seemed to bounce off his foot and set the ball up nicely, the second was a perfect finish to his ninth La Liga goal. season.
Valencia thought they had responded through Hugo Duro but his shot was ruled out by VAR for a foul across the field from Dimitri Foulquier.
– Athletic Walk –
The first half was intense and fairly even, but Atlético clinched victory in the second after Carrasco scored from close range shortly after the break.
Griezmann lined up a good pass for Álvaro Morata, who left the Valencian defender Eray Comert in the dust and crossed for Lemar to finish off with a header.
“The team is doing very well, when the group is good and the team competes the way it competes it is difficult (to face),” Simeone told DAZN.
“We could have been better in finishing, we created chances, but we didn’t have the forcefulness to end the game. In the second half came the goals.
“We are happy with how the team is growing.”
Samuel Lino hit the post for Valencia late on, but they couldn’t even score a consolation goal on another very worrying day for Baraja’s team.
“We’re really down, we didn’t have a good game,” Valencia captain José Gaya told DAZN.
“The disallowed goal affected us. (The referee) didn’t think it was a foul and with the VAR he changed the decision.”
The loss was Baraja’s third in five games since he took over the team he used to play for in February.
“We are very disappointed. Since I have been here, this is the game in which we have been less recognizable (like Valencia),” Baraja said.
– Penalty trap –
Rayo Vallecano drew 2-2 with Girona after missing a penalty that Óscar Trejo tried to pass to Isi Palazón.
Trejo saw a first penalty saved by Paulo Gazzaniga, but was allowed to take it again due to the invasion of Girona.
On his second attempt, he left the ball in the hands of Palazón, who shot over the top.
In 2016, Barcelona successfully executed the move in La Liga, with Lionel Messi passing a penalty to Luis Suárez, who scored against Celta Vigo.
The failure of Trejo and Palazon brought back memories of Arsenal attempting the same move against Manchester City in the Premier League in 2005, when Robert Pires tried to pass Thierry Henry but missed the move.
The draw leaves Rayo provisionally eighth while Girona is 12th.
Celta Vigo beat Espanyol 3-1 with talented midfielder Gabri Veiga scoring a fine goal to continue his good form.