Griezmann nets 2 more in Atletico win over Levante
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Antoine Griezmann headed in two more goals to lead Atletico Madrid to a 3-1 win over Levante, as the defending champions pulled to within one point of the Spanish league lead on Saturday.
Sevilla remained the only undefeated team at home this season after it edged 10-man Celta Vigo 1-0 despite a lackluster performance, pulling away from both Villarreal and Malaga after they stumbled to end winning streaks.
With winter reinforcement Fernando Torres watching from the stands at Vicente Calderon Stadium, Griezmann added to his hat trick from the last round by scoring in the 18th and 47th minutes.
The France forward first reached Siqueira’s cross at the near post to turn it past goalkeeper Diego Marino, and he followed that by nodding in a rebound after Marino stretched to save Mario Mandzukic’s initial try for his eighth league goal of the campaign.
Levante substitute Nabil El Zhar halved the difference in the 62nd, but Diego Godin headed in a third goal to secure the victory eight minutes from time.
Atletico pulled level on points with Barcelona before it visits Real Sociedad on Sunday. Leader Real Madrid is one point ahead of its main title rivals with two games in hand.
Torres could debut in his return to his boyhood club on Wednesday when Atletico hosts Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Diego Simeone’s side then faces a trip to Barcelona’s Camp Nou in the league next weekend.
“Fernando is a player from this house that creates a lot of excitement,” said Godin. “He has come to do his part and you can see he wants to do well.
“This (win) will help us face a hard week of important matches.”
Sevilla defender Nico Pareja curled in a free kick for the 32nd-minute winner after Celta’s Carles Planes received a direct red card for a low tackle in the 20th.
The undermanned Celta still managed to dictate the action until waning late, but Sevilla held on to rise past Valencia into provisional fourth place and the last Champions League spot.
“We can’t be satisfied with the result,” Sevilla manager Unai Emery said. “We have to be self-critical. With an extra player, we should have had an easier time.”
Since winning at Barcelona on Nov. 1, Celta hasn’t scored a single goal, and its winless streak has reached eight rounds as it stayed in eighth place.
Bottom side Elche fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with visitors Villarreal, while Almeria striker Tomer Hemed scored twice to help earn a 2-1 win at Malaga to deal the hosts their first loss in four rounds.
Villarreal seemed set to extend its five-round winning run after its fast-paced attack produced goals from strikers Luciano Vietto in the 12th and Ikechuwku Uche in the 18th.
But Elche immediately responded with a flurry of chances before Jonathas beat ’keeper Sergio Asenjo with a powerful volley in the 26th. Victor Rodriguez then scored off the post in the 35th to complete the comeback.
Villarreal was left in sixth place, behind Valencia in fifth on goal difference.
Hemed opened for Almeria in the 39th when he and two teammates beat Malaga’s defenders to a lobbed free kick. Samuel Garcia equalized in the 73rd, only for Hemed to convert a penalty three minutes later after he was fouled by Miguel Torres.
Almeria’s second consecutive win under new coach Juan Ignacio Martinez lifted it three points above the relegation zone.
Also, Deportivo La Coruna beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0. Bilbao remained winless in four rounds.