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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football Briefs: Torres strike sees Atletico go second

Football Briefs: Torres strike sees Atletico go second

December 17, 2017 12:33 IST

News of all that's transpired on and off the football field

Fernando Torres

IMAGE: Fernando Torres celebrates. Photograph: Atletico Madrid/Twitter

Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres came off the bench to fire his side to a 1-0 win at home to Alaves on Saturday which took Diego Simeone's side up to second in La Liga above Valencia, who stumbled to a 2-1 defeat at Eibar.

 

Crowd favourite Torres was brought on in the second half to give Atletico an extra attacking edge and the Spanish veteran had been on the pitch only a few moments when he slid in a low cross from Sime Vrsaljko to score in the 74th minute.

It was the 33-year-old's first league goal of the season and it gave Atletico a fourth straight league win, taking them three points behind Liga leaders Barcelona.

Simeone's side, who along with Barca are the only unbeaten team in the league, were boosted by the return of talismanic forward Antoine Griezmann but until Torres came on they had struggled to create openings against relegation-threatened Alaves.

The Basque side remain 18th in the standings but have been revitalised by the arrival of coach Abelardo Fernandez, who had guided the team to two wins from his two games in charge before their trip to the Spanish capital.

"We didn't have that many chances but we still dominated the game and I'm delighted with the attitude of the substitutes because we are where we are right now because of the efforts of whole group," Simeone told reporters.

"Atletico's history is full of tight games like this but in recent years we have managed to have more positive endings to them than negative ones."

Valencia saw their unlikely title tilt dented by a much-improved Eibar side, who twice took the lead after the break and held on to win their fourth game in five and inflict a second consecutive away defeat on Marcelino's side.

Atletico are second in the standings on 36 points, behind Barca, who host Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, while Valencia are third on 34. Real Madrid, fourth on 31, missed the weekend's domestic action due to playing in the Club World Cup final, where they beat Gremio 1-0.

Japanese international Takashi Inui put Eibar ahead in the 49th minute in heavy rain with the help of some haphazard defending from the visitors, who twice failed to clear the danger inside the area and allowed the midfielder to take advantage.

Valencia were without top scorer Simone Zaza through suspension while winger Carlos Soler was injured, but Santi Mina levelled for Marcelino's side eight minutes after they had conceded with a simple near-post finish from close range.

The visitors failed to build up any momentum with their equaliser, however, and Eibar came back at them even stronger.

Midfielder Joan Jordan headed in the winning goal in the 87th minute to give Eibar a deserved win, their fourth in five games, and inflict a second consecutive away defeat on Valencia following their 1-0 reverse at Getafe two weeks ago, which was their first loss of the campaign.

Eibar had more than twice as many shots as the visitors did but managed to hit the target only three times, and Valencia coach Marcelino felt his side had been hard done by.

"The last two away games have been tough for us but today I think we played well in the first half and didn't have too many problems in the second half either. What is happening is our opponents have few chances but they are taking them," he told reporters.

"We are struggling a bit away from home recently. The defeat at Getafe might have been fair but today I don't think Eibar deserved to win."

Late Mueller goal earns Bayern win at Stuttgart

A late Thomas Mueller goal and a stoppage-time penalty save by Sven Ulreich gave Bayern Munich a nervous 1-0 victory at VfB Stuttgart on Saturday to go into the winter break with an 11-point lead.

Borussia Dortmund also made sure of a happy Bundesliga break, coming from a goal down to beat Hoffenheim 2-1 thanks to Christian Pulisic's superb 89th-minute winner, for their second straight victory under new coach Peter Stoeger.

Bayern, who face Dortmund in the German Cup on Wednesday, were again far from effective and looked somewhat surprised by the level of resistance offered by Stuttgart.

Their opponents gradually ran out of steam after the hour, however, and Bayern started creating more chances through Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman.

Frenchman Coman found Mueller in the box and the striker fired in from a tight corner to beat Ron-Robert Zieler in the 79th minute. Bayern then survived the late penalty scare with Ulreich denying the hosts.

The win lifted Bayern to 41 points, with second-placed Schalke 04 rescuing a last-gasp 2-2 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt to move on to 30.

"I cannot understand how Stuttgart don't have more points," Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told reporters. "It was an intense and dramatic game. My players now will need to clear their heads to face Dortmund next week."

RB Leipzig, third on 28 can overtake Schalke on Sunday, when they take on Hertha Berlin.

Dortmund's Pulisic picked up a Shinji Kagawa cross and passed from one foot to the other, before volleying in the winner to lift his team back into third place on 28.

Hoffenheim had taken the lead with Mark Uth but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's penalty in the 63rd minute had drawn Dortmund level.

Bottom club Cologne beat VfL Wolfsburg 1-0, celebrating their first win of the season, while lowly Werder Bremen squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against relegation rivals Mainz 05.

Napoli back on top after Inter lose unbeaten record

Inter Milan suffered an unexpected first league defeat of the season on Saturday, going down 3-1 at home to midtable Udinese, and were knocked off the top of Serie A by Napoli after they won by the same score at Torino.

In the day's other game, AS Roma missed a second-half penalty but still beat Cagliari 1-0 with a stoppage-time goal by Federico Fazio, awarded after a consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).

VAR was also used at the San Siro to award a second-half penalty to Udinese which Rodrigo De Paul converted in what proved to be the turning point as Inter were finally beaten in their 17th game of the campaign.

The referee initially signalled a goal kick but changed his mind and gave handball against Davide Santon after consulting the VAR.

Inter's defeat opened the door for Napoli to move back to the top of Serie A with 42 points from 17 games, two clear of Inter. Roma's win took them level on 38 points with third-placed Juventus, who visit Bologna on Sunday.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik equalled Diego Maradona's club record of 115 goals as his side raced to a 3-0 lead after half an hour, suggesting that their recent scoring troubles are behind them.

After failing to score in their last two league games, Napoli quickly refound their touch when Kalidou Koulibaly headed them in front after four minutes.

Jorginho sent Piotr Zielsinki clear of Torino's defence for the second after 25 minutes and Hamsik fired home from Dries Mertens' pass to finish off a flowing move on the half hour.

Andrea Belotti pulled one back for Torino just after the hour.

Milan hit new low in 3-0 defeat by struggling Verona

AC Milan's miserable season hit a new low when they slumped to a 3-0 loss at struggling Verona in Serie A on Sunday, two days after UEFA expressed concern over the club's financial situation.

Antonio Caracciolo, Moise Kean and Daniel Bessa scored for Verona who are 17th in the table and had previously won only two league games this season. Milan's misery was completed when Suso was sent off in the last minute.

Milan, who beat Verona by the same score in a Coppa Italia match four days ago, have managed one win, one draw and one defeat in their three games league since former midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was appointed as coach.

Seven-times European champions Milan, under Chinese ownership since April, spent over 200 million euros in the last transfer window in an attempt to re-establish themselves as a force in Serie A.

The defeat came two days after UEFA had rejected Milan's request for a voluntary agreement that would have temporarily exempted the club from European football's breakeven rule known as Financial Fair Play.

UEFA said there were "still uncertainties in relation to the financing of the loans to be paid back in October 2018 and the financial guarantees provided by the main shareholder".

Caracciolo was given far too much freedom by the Milan defence as he headed in from Romulo's corner in the 24th minute, the ball hitting the bar and going in off goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Kean scored the second after Bessa pulled the ball back 10 minutes after halftime and Bessa added the third in the 77th minute, stroking the ball home from Romulo's pass after the Brazilian burst down the right unchallenged.

Suso was sent off for kicking Daniele Verde, who was on the ground, in a decision made with the help of the video replay.

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