Antoine Griezmann scored twice after setting up an opening goal to earn a hard-fought 3-2 victory at Valladolid, lifting Atletico Madrid level on points with Spanish league leader Barcelona on Saturday.
The win was Atletico’s first away from home in La Liga in nearly three months.
Meanwhile, Luka Modric presented his Ballon d’Or award to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium crowd before Karim Benzema led Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
Benzema scored early before he needed to be substituted in the second half with an ankle injury, leaving Madrid with questions about the fitness of its forwards before it attempts to defend its Club World Cup crown next week.
GRIEZMANN FINDS FORM
Atletico dominated the first half, as Griezmann passed for Nikola Kalinic to score before adding a penalty kick just before halftime.
A video review awarded Atletico a penalty after it informed the referee that defender Kiko Olivas used his arm to swat a shot by Griezmann, who stroked the spot kick into the top corner of the net.
Valladolid pinned the visitors back into their area at the start of the second half and equalized with goals from two corner kicks.
Valladolid defender Fernando Calero pulled one back with a header in the 57th. The hosts momentarily drew level in the 63rd when Enes Unal headed the ball across the goalmouth where it hit Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez and ricocheted in.
Griezmann then stepped up to put Atletico back in front for good in the 80th minute after Stefan Savic found him alone on the left side of the six-yard box to beat goalkeeper Jordi Masip.
The goals were Griezmann’s fifth and sixth in La Liga through 16 rounds. He has also scored four in the Champions League.
“I can still get better. I am not at my best yet. I am still missing that bit of speed,” said Griezmann, who helped France win the World Cup during a match-packed summer.
It was Atletico’s second away win in the league to go with five draws and its sole loss in the competition.
Atletico is behind Barcelona on goal difference before the defending champions visit Levante on Sunday.
BENZEMA LEADS WIN
Benzema scored his sixth league goal when he struck home a pass by Lucas Vazquez in the 13th.
The French striker was substituted in the 78th, walking gingerly on his left ankle following a brush with a Rayo defender.
Madrid, which was without injured forwards Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz, plays Japanese side Kashima Antlers in the semifinals of the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
While Toni Kroos hit the woodwork for Madrid before halftime, the relegation-threatened Rayo almost snatched a draw in stoppage time when Alex Alegria and Emiliano Velazquez forced Thibaut Courtois to turn back their back-to-back shots.
Madrid climbed into third place, overtaking Sevilla before it hosts Girona on Sunday.
GETAFE MOVING UP
Getafe is the latest modest side in La Liga to join the fight for a spot in the upper part of the table after losing once in eight rounds.
Getafe got a third-minute goal from Jorge Molina to beat Real Sociedad 1-0 and move into fifth place.
Source: The Associated Press