Antoine Griezmann scored twice as third-placed Atletico Madrid kept the pressure on the Spanish La Liga’s leading teams with a 3-1 home win over Levante. The Frenchman had hit a hat-trick at Athletic Bilbao just before the winter break and scored two headers either side of half-time to put the champions in command at the Vicente Calderon.
Substitute Nabil El Zhar gave the visitors brief hope of getting back into the game with a close-range effort just after the hour mark but Diego Godin scored Atletico’s third header of the afternoon to ensure the three points remained in the capital. The win sees Atletico move level on points with second-placed Barcelona, one behind leaders Real Madrid, ahead of Sunday’s matches when Madrid head to Valencia and Barcelona travel to Real Sociedad.
Sevilla moved up to fourth, two points above Valencia, after limping to an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo, who were forced to play most of the game with ten men. Carles Planas was shown a straight red card with just 20 minutes on the clock at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium and shortly afterwards Nico Pareja gave Sevilla the lead from a free-kick.
Villarreal missed their chance to go above Valencia as they squandered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 away to Elche. Marcelino’s side looked to be heading for a sixth straight league victory when Luciano Vietto and Ikechukwu Uche scored inside the opening 20 minutes.
However the hosts got back into the game through top scorer Jonathas de Jesus, who then provided the assist for Victor Rodriguez’s impressive equaliser after 35 minutes. Malaga also lost ground as they suffered a 2-1 home loss to Almeria, who made it three straight wins for new coach Juan Ignacio Martinez as Tomer Hemed scored twice.
Hemed opened the scoring five minutes before half-time with an opportunist strike and he made sure of the win from the penalty spot in the second half, minutes after Samuel Garcia struck back for Malaga.
The only blot on Almeria’s evening was the dismissal of Michel Machado late on as he needlessly picked up two yellow cards in the last five minutes. Ivan Cavaleiro scored for the first time since August as Deportivo La Coruna fended off Athletic Bilbao to climb clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win. The Portuguese attacker broke through Athletic lines to collect a lofted pass and slide a low finish past Gorka Iraizoz in the 24th minute.