Atletico wins, keeps Barcelona from clinching Spanish title

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              Barcelona forward Lionel Messi sits at the bench during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Deportivo Alaves and FC Barcelona at the Medizorrosa stadium in Vitoria, Spain, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
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MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid made sure Barcelona has to wait a little longer to celebrate the Spanish league title.

With a 3-2 win over Valencia on Wednesday, Atletico cut Barcelona’s lead to nine points and kept the Catalan club from clinching the title — at least until the weekend.

Barcelona defeated Alaves 2-0 on Tuesday and would have sealed its second straight league trophy — and eighth in 11 seasons — if Atletico lost at home. Now it will have to wait until Saturday, when a win over relegation-threatened Levante at Camp Nou Stadium would be enough.

The Catalan club can also secure its 26th title if Atletico loses its match at Valladolid earlier on Saturday. A draw by Atletico will leave Barcelona needing only a point against Levante.

“We are doing our part, which is to keep winning and keep fighting until the end,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “But Barcelona has had a great season and I’m sure it won’t miss its chance to win the title on Saturday.”

With four matches remaining, Barcelona holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against Atletico, which is trying to finish runner-up for the second straight season. It has a seven-point advantage over third-place Real Madrid, which visits fourth-place Getafe on Thursday.

Valencia, which had won four in a row in all competitions, stayed fifth in the standings, two points behind Getafe in the final Champions League spot. Valencia has reached the Copa del Rey final — it will face Barcelona on May 25 — and the semifinals of the Europa League — when it will play Arsenal.

“We are still in position to earn the fourth spot,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said. “This won’t be decided until the very end.”

Substitute Angel Correa scored the winning goal for Atletico with a curling shot from outside the area in the 81st minute, giving Atletico its fifth win in its last six matches, with the only setback a 2-0 loss against Barcelona at Camp Nou four rounds ago.

Striker Alvaro Morata opened the scoring for Atletico after a cross by Juanfran Torres less than 10 minutes into the match, and forward Kevin Gameiro equalized from inside the area near the end of the first half.

Antoine Griezmann put Atletico ahead early in the second half with a close-range header after a cross by Thomas Lemar, and Dani Parejo evened the match again by converting a 77th-minute penalty awarded after video review for a handball by Saul Niguez inside the box.

It was one of the lowest attendances of the season for Atletico, with the match played under steady rain at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

OTHER RESULTS

Seventh-place Athletic Bilbao stayed alive in the fight for a Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at Leganes. Athletic’s winner in the first half came through an own goal by Leganes forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who headed the ball into his own net off a corner kick.

Celta Vigo stayed two points clear from the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw at midtable Espanyol. Maxi Gomez scored Celta’s equalizer in the 72nd minute after Chinese forward Wu Lei gave the hosts the lead in the 33rd.

Levante moved three points away from the relegation zone with a 4-0 rout of Real Betis at home, a result that ended the team’s nine-match winless streak.