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Soccer PIX: Atletico go third in La Liga; Verona win

June 21, 2020 13:05 IST

IMAGES from the soccer matches played in Spain and Italy on Saturday

Atletico Madrid's Vitolo celebrates with teammates after netting their first goal against Real Valladolid at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Saturday

IMAGE: Atletico Madrid's Vitolo celebrates with teammates after netting their first goal against Real Valladolid during their La Liga match at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Saturday. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

Atletico Madrid scraped a 1-0 win at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday in La Liga thanks to a late header from substitute Vitolo to move into third in the standings.

Vitolo cashed in from poor positioning from Valladolid's debutant goalkeeper Jose Antonio Caro to head the ball just over the goalline. Although it was headed away by a defender, a VAR review ratified the linesman's decision to award the goal.

 

The victory took Atletico on to 52 points after 30 games, level with fourth-placed Sevilla, but gave them a four-point cushion over fifth-placed Getafe to further boost their chances of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.

Valladolid are 15th on 33 points, seven points above the relegation zone.

"Valladolid are a very hard-working and organised team and were very tight at the back and in the middle and it was very hard to find any gaps," said match winner Vitolo.

"In the end we had to get the goal from a set play but we've earned three vital points."

Playing for the first time without fans at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico lacked the fluidity they showed in their 5-0 thrashing at Osasuna last Wednesday and were fortunate not to go behind as Valladolid impressed in the first half.

Visiting midfielder Waldo Rubio unleashed a vicious long distance strike early in the game to force an outstanding save from Atleti keeper Jan Oblak, while Brazilian Matheus Fernandes narrowly missed the target following a swift counterattack.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone was unable to engage in his usual habit of whipping the Metropolitano crowd into a frenzy as fans are still not allowed into stadiums for safety reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the coach still frantically paced along the touchline to bark orders at his players and he wildly gesticulated at the referee when Vitolo's header looked to have crossed the line.

Simeone had started without Diego Costa but turned to the combative striker midway through the second half, one of five attacking changes he made to try and break down the resolute visitors.

Costa missed two good chances to score but helped cause the chaos which led to the breakthrough, out-jumping Caro and glancing the ball across for Vitolo to head across the line.

Getafe slip up again but VAR saves them from defeat

Getafe's bid to qualify for the Champions League for the first time continued to unravel as they could only draw 1-1 at home to struggling Eibar on Saturday although they escaped a worse fate as a late goal for the visitors was ruled out by a VAR review.

The draw kept Getafe fifth on 48 points. They are four points adrift of third-placed Atletico Madrid, who beat Real Valladolid 1-0, and fourth-placed Sevilla.

The Madrid side went ahead in the 30th minute through a well-worked move finished off by Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo but Eibar levelled in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the first half through a header from striker Charles.

Both sides had failed to win either of their first two matches since the season resumed although Eibar's Pedro Bigas thought he had clinched the three points with a glancing header in the 86th minute.

His effort, however, was ruled out for a narrow offside after a VAR review.

Eibar are 16th on 29, three above Real Mallorca who occupy the final spot in the relegation zone.

"The goal at the end of the first half did us a lot of damage, we had to start again from scratch in the second and we weren't able to create chances or get the win," said Getafe striker Jaime Mata.

"We really needed to win this game as we needed a boost after the break in action so we'll have to keep fighting until we get that first victory."

Also on Saturday, Espanyol sank back to the bottom of the table after being beaten 3-1 at home by Levante. Espanyol have 24 points, three behind 17th-placed Celta Vigo who have a game in hand.

Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao beat Real Betis 1-0 at home to move into ninth place on 42 points, increasing the pressure on Betis coach Rubi, whose side are 14th on 34.

Verona hold on for win after VAR controversy

Samuel Di Carmine (obscured) of Hellas Verona scores the opening goal against Cagliari Calcio during their during the Serie A match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi in Verona, Italy

IMAGE: Samuel Di Carmine (obscured) of Hellas Verona scores the opening goal against Cagliari Calcio during their during the Serie A match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi in Verona, Italy. Photograph: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Verona scored twice in the first half hour but had to hang on for a 2-1 win over Cagliari on Saturday as Serie A produced a VAR controversy on its first day of action since the coronavirus stoppage.

The hosts appeared to be cruising to a win thanks to a brace from Samuel Di Carmine until forward Fabio Borini was sent off in the 35th minute for a late challenge on Marko Rog following a long VAR review, infuriating the home team.

Giovanni Simeone quickly pulled one back but the visitors could not find an equaliser.

Former Italy goalkeeper Walter Zenga, who replaced Rolando Maran as Cagliari coach days before Serie A was suspended for three months in early March, finally made his debut in charge of the struggling Sardinians but could not prevent them extending their winless run to 12 matches in the league.

Promoted Verona, who have performed far above expectations this season, climbed to seventh with 38 points. Earlier, Torino and Parma drew 1-1 in the first match of the restarted season.

Verona quickly brushed off the cobwebs as they dominated the opening 30 minutes.

Di Carmine got in front of his marker to head in from Darko Lazovic's cross after 14 minutes and then curled in a 25-metre shot from another Lazovic assist. Lazovic himself smashed a shot against the crossbar in between.

But the game changed completely after Borini was given a straight red card. Although he crashed into Rog with his foot raised, it looked unintentional as Borini did not seem to be aware of the Croat's presence.

Cagliari quickly replied when Luca Pellegrini headed a cross down and Giovanni Simeone lashed the ball home.

The Sardinians had more possession after halftime but failed to create many openings and were also reduced to 10 men when Luca Cigarini was sent off for a second bookable with 20 minutes left.

Belotti misses penalty in Torino draw as Serie A returns

Torino captain Andrea Belotti had a penalty saved in a 1-1 draw at home to Parma as Serie A finally resumed following a three-month coronavirus stoppage on Saturday.

Nicolas Nkoulou headed struggling Torino ahead in the 15th minute and the Cameroon defender celebrated the first Serie A goal since the restart by taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Torino's shirts had the words "Thank you to all the heroes" printed under the badge as a tribute to Italy's health workers and, as with all Italian matches for the time being, the game was played behind closed doors.

The match was originally due to be played on February 23 but became one of the first to be called off as the coronavirus began to spread through Italy. Serie A was eventually suspended just over two weeks later.

Juraj Kucka fired seventh-placed Parma level in the 31st minute after Gervinho found his way to the byline and pulled the ball back.

"After three months, it was a nice match on the part of both teams," said Parma coach Roberto D'Aversa. "They're a very physical team and we did well to get back into the match."

Torino won a penalty right at the start of the second half but Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe, who had just denied Simone Zaza with a brilliant point-blank save, got his hand to Belotti's weak effort.

Belotti has been stuck on nine league goals since his brace against AS Roma on January 5.

Torino, who are 15th with 28 points from 26 games and only three above the relegation zone, missed another clear opening when Simone Edera sent a free header wide from Ola Aina's cross.

Both sides tired towards the end as the effects of the long break began to show, although the hosts surprisingly made only two of their five permitted substitutions.

"We were holding our own and I couldn't see any need for changing five players," said Torino coach Moreno Longo.

"We didn't need to make changes just for the sake of it."

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