Griezmann’s brace pushes Atletico closer to La Liga leaders Real

Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates after scoring his second goal for Atletico Madrid vs. Almeria on Saturday night.

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Antoine Griezmann scored twice as Atletico Madrid claimed a comfortable 3-0 Primera Division win over Almeria on Saturday.

Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring with a controversial penalty before Griezmann’s brace ensured the game was over as a contest inside the first half-hour. Guilherme Siqueira was sent off in stoppage time for the Rojiblancos but it made little difference as they took advantage of Barcelona’s defeat to Malaga to move within three points of the second-placed Catalans.

Atletico started on the front foot and Griezmann curled an effort from 20 yards just wide inside the opening two minutes. The champions did not have to wait long for a goal though as they were awarded a penalty in the 13th minute. Gabi swung in a free-kick and as Diego Godin went up with Mauro Dos Santos and Tomer Hemed, the referee adjudged that he had been fouled.

It looked a soft decision with the Almeria players complaining to referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz but that did not distract Mandzukic who stepped up and slotted the penalty to Julian’s right. The lead was doubled seven minutes later and this time it was the fault of Almeria rather than the officials. A stray pass in midfield was pounced upon by Mandzukic and he released Griezmann who bore down on goal and applied a cool, low finish.

The visitors were barely in the game and it was no surprise when Atletico got their third in the 29th minute following a corner. The initial set-piece was cleared but when the ball came back into the box, Mandzukic headed to Griezmann who turned and supplied the finish. Almeria had been very poor but came out with more purpose in the second half with Atletico clearly happy to sit on their lead.

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Miguel Angel Corona fired just wide on the hour half as Almeria had the better of it but Raul Garcia responded by flashing wide as the game wound down. Atletico may have got a favourable decision for the penalty but they were on the receiving end of a shocker in stoppage time when Siqueira was handed a second booking for handball although the ball appeared to hit his chest.

In Saturday’s last match, Celta Vigo claimed a Galician derby double as second-half goals from Charles and Joaquin Larrivey earned them a 2-0 victory at Deportivo La Coruna.

Celta earned a 2-1 home victory in the first clash between the rivals in September and Charles’ deft chip 36 seconds into the second half set them on the road to another win, with Larrivey’s late close-range strike making sure after a defensive mix-up at the Riazor. Deportivo were reduced to 10 men in the 73rd minute when centre-back Alberto Lopo was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Celta’s second successive league victory moved them above Espanyol into eighth, with 31 points gleaned from their 24 matches. Defeat leaves Deportivo 15th, five points clear of the relegation zone.