MADRID - Atletico Madrid shot to the top of La Liga after Angel Correa's goal proved the winner in an untidy 1-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.
Atletico sat seven points behind Real Madrid and Barcelona after winning only one of their opening four league games but as their rivals have stumbled, Diego Simeone's side have sprung into form.
Even if Barca return to the summit by beating Valencia later on Sunday, this was Atleti's fifth win in six in all competitions, with their only dropped points coming in a stalemate away to Real Madrid.
Simeone can take some of the credit too for this victory at the Wanda Metropolitano, after throwing on both Correa and Thomas Partey as substitutes in the second half. Thomas provided the assist.
The contest was billed as a classic clash of styles, with Atletico's stubborn defence up against the free-flowing Real Betis, who lit up the league last season with their flurry of goals.
It is testament to the threat Betis pose that opponents have become more cautious this season and Atletico were successful here in their strategy of absorb and counter-attack. Betis, who could also have gone top with a win, such is the scrunched nature of the top half, stay seventh.
Diego Costa was missing with a thigh injury, allowing Nikola Kalinic to make his first start since joining from AC Milan in August. The first half was almost entirely forgettable, summed up by a period in the 42nd minute when a handful of players from both sides comically swarmed around the ball, tackling it between each other until eventually it deflected out of play.
There was a lack of width and clear thinking although Betis had the best chance early on. Loren Moron raced through a gap in the Atletico defence but the ball got stuck under his feet and he skewed wide.
Atletico posed a threat on the break but repeatedly fluffed the final pass. Kalinic struck the post early in the second half after Aissa Mandi gave it away, before Rodrigo lashed a shot at Pau Lopez. Simeone flapped his arms to beckon the home crowd.
Atleti were finding their rhythm as Griezmann pulled back for Kalinic and then Correa fired across goal but neither Griezmann nor Diego Godin turned it in. Correa, on for the quiet Thomas Lemar, had made a difference with his direct running and he deserved his goal.
Thomas flicked it into his path and with no better option, the forward drove low into the bottom corner. Betis pushed in the latter stages but there was little hint of an equaliser. Atletico held on.AFP