Llorente proves difference as Atletico overcome Alaves
MADRID - Forward Marcos Llorente came off the bench and inspired Atletico Madrid to a 2-1 win over Alaves in La Liga on Saturday as Diego Simeone's side maintained their superb run of form since the season resumed following the three-month coronavirus stoppage.
Saul Niguez headed in the opening goal in the 59th minute while Diego Costa netted with a penalty in the 73rd, although visiting forward Joselu scored a penalty in added time to make for an uncomfortable end to the game for Atletico.
The penalty was awarded for a handball by Atletico captain Koke, who will miss next week's trip to Barcelona through suspension after earning a booking for the incident.
Atletico had struggled to break down Alaves and had been limited to long distance efforts until Llorente came on in the second half and immediately caused havoc down the right flank, winning the free kick from which his side found a breakthrough.
Saul latched on to Kieran Trippier's free kick to head home before Llorente ripped another hole in the visiting side's defence by winning the penalty from which Costa sent Fernando Pacheco the wrong way to double Atleti's lead.
Atletico are third in the standings on 58 points after 32 games. The win extended their advantage over fourth-placed Sevilla by four points and increased their gap with fifth-placed Getafe by nine.
Alaves, who slumped to a third straight defeat, are 15th on 35 points, nine above the relegation zone.
"It was a really hard-fought game, Alaves sat very deep and it was very hard for us to get near their goal or down the wing but we got the breakthrough from a set play then they opened up and our subs caused them damage," said goalscorer Saul.
"I can sleep easily because the team is in very good form, we all worked hard in our homes during lockdown and after it and that has made the difference between us and our rivals."
The match was also a landmark win for coach Simeone, who became the club's most successful manager with 195 La Liga victories, overtaking the late Luis Aragones who previously held the record with 194 wins in the top-flight.Reuters