Celta beats Villarreal with late goal to stay top in Spain
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Celta Vigo forward Manuel ”Nolito” Agudo scored in the 90th minute to snatch a 2-1 win at 10-man Villarreal and pull the visitors level with Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league on Sunday.
Nolito and attacking midfielder Fabian Orellana kept Celta unbeaten through eight rounds after each scored a goal and hit the woodwork in an attractive clash between the two of the league’s best passing teams at El Madrigal Stadium.
Nolito, who has been linked to a move to Barcelona during the winter transfer window, got the winner from a rebound after Orellana’s shot came off the post. Nolito’s sixth goal of the season left him level with Madrid stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, and two goals behind Neymar.
Celta’s win left Madrid as leader on goal difference after its 3-0 victory over Levante on Saturday. Celta is second, followed by Barcelona in third after the defending champions routed Rayo Vallecano 5-2, also on Saturday.
”We think we can beat anyone, that we can go to any ground and show that we can win because we are a solid team that works hard and is dangerous,” said coach Eduardo Berizzo, whose Celta side stunned Barcelona 4-1 last month.
Villarreal, which entered the round in first place, fell all the way to fifth, two points off the pace.
Atletico Madrid moved into fourth on goal difference with a 2-0 win at Real Sociedad, which has just one win this season.
Deportivo La Coruna scored twice in the final minutes to fight back 2-2 with Athletic Bilbao to remain in sixth, while Getafe also eased to a 4-0 victory over 10-man Las Palmas.
Villarreal dominated possession for the first 25 minutes until Nolito tilted the action the other way by making his first incursions into the area.
Orellana put Celta in front with a great long-range strike after Villarreal’s defense failed to close on him before he could unleash a curling shot around outstretched goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Celta went close to a second goal when Nolito hit the upright in the 45th. Iago Aspas then squandered a clever buildup by Nolito and Orellana with Villarreal playing with 10 men after defender Eric Bailly picked up a second booking for clumsily handling the ball two minutes after halftime.
Substitute Denis Suarez leveled for Villarreal against the flow of play with a deflected shot in the 67th but, just as the match was heading to a draw, Nolito smashed home the loose ball after Orellana’s last-gasp effort clipped the post.
”We made mistakes that you just can’t make,” said Villarreal manager Marcelino Garcia.
Antoine Griezmann earned the applause of his former fans at Sociedad when he was substituted late in the match despite his audacious goal to give Atletico the lead in the ninth minute.
The France forward quickly dribbled right past three defenders before coolly chipping the ball over goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli for a great goal that he didn’t celebrate out of respect for his previous club.
Sociedad saw Diego Reyes sent off with two bookings in the last minute before Yannick Carrasco raced forward to score Atletico’s second goal in injury time. Sociedad added to its own misery when Jonathas got a second yellow card for protesting before the final whistle.
Bilbao seemed to be in complete control after Inaki Williams and Aritz Aduriz gave the Basques a two-goal lead, but Lucas Perez sparked Deportivo’s comeback with a sweeping volley in the 80th and Alejandro Arribas headed in the equalizer a minute from time.
Victor Rodriguez and Pablo Sarabia gave Getafe a two-goal lead by the 11th minute, and substitute Stefan Scepovic rounded off the victory with two goals after Juan Culio’s low tackle on Sarabia earned him a straight red card in the 80th.