Atletico Madrid survived a stoppage time penalty and moved five points clear at the top of La Liga with a much-needed 1-0 away win over Elche.
Diego Simeone’s side came into the match on the back of a damaging defeat to Athletic Club, but Atleti returned to winning ways with just four fixtures of the La Liga season remaining.
The away side were on the front foot from the start and looked to have opened the scoring through Luis Suarez, back in the lineup for the first time following injury, only for VAR to bring it back for an offside.
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Llorente did however break the deadlock after 24 minutes when his deflected strike from a Yannick Carrasco cut back found the back of the net. A penalty kick for a handball was overturned at the end of the half as Atleti continued to dominate.
Atleti, however, struggled to keep their foot on the pedal in the second half as Elche gained a foothold in the contest. A restless Simeone made a number of conserative changes as the visitors protected what they had.
Just as it appeared Atletico Madrid had completed the job, a handball in the box presented Elche with a chance to snatch a point late on only for Fidel Chaves to strike the woodwork with his penalty kick.
Three points stretches Atletico Madrid’s advantage at the top of the table, but Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla all have games still to play this weekend that could see them keep pace with the pace-setters.
TALKING POINT - Atletico Madrid got away with one in the second half
With 45 minutes played, it seemed that Atletico Madrid were well-placed to blow away Elche in the second half. They had been dominant in the first period and the sense was they would press hard to find a second goal to kill the contest as quickly as possible. Instead, Atleti produced a nervous and edgy second half performance as they allowed Elche back into the game. Simeone made a number of conservative changes and would have paid for them had Fidel converted his stoppage time penalty kick.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
While Atletico Madrid were poor in the second half, Carrasco was the best player on the pitch for them. The Belgian winger-turned-wing back gave the home side all sorts of problems down the left side, contributing the assist for Llorente to score the winner. The 27-year-old has been a key figure for Atleti this season and this display edged his side closer to the title.
Elche - Gazzaniga 4, Palacios 5, D. Gonzalez 5, Calvo 5, Josema 6, Marcone 5, Guti 6, Morente 6, Fidel 3, Milla 5, Boye 4. Subs - Victor 6, Barragan 7, Piatti 6, Nino 4, Ferrandez 4.
Atletico Madrid - Oblak 8, Trippier 6, Savic 8, Gimenez 6, Hermoso 6, Kondogbia 8, Llorente 7, Carrasco 8, Lemar 5, Correa 6, Suarez 5. Subs - Saul 4, Felipe 3, Felix 4, Koke 4.
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12’ SUAREZ... wide! That should have been the opening goal for Atletico Madrid! Correa threaded a pass through for Suarez, but the striker somehow managed to put his shot wide of the near post!
17’ Goal chalked off! Llorente was indeed offside when the ball was played in behind by Savic and Elche have been given something of a reprieve. Suarez's goal has been chalked off.
23’ GOAL! Elche 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Atletico Madrid have the ball in the back of the net again and this one will count! Carrasco beat his man to burst to the byline, he cuts back the pass for Llorente and the attacking midfielder smashes a finish into the back of the net via a deflection!
45’ PENALTY KICK TO ATLETICO MADRID! The referee points to the spot for a handball following a Correa shot on goal!
45+2’ NO PENALTY! The referee has had a look at the handball on the monitor and has decided that it wasn't a penalty kick. He has overturned his original decision. Let off for Elche.
90’ PENALTY KICK TO ELCHE! The referee has pointed to the spot for a foul in the area from a freekick!
90+2’ Off the post! What a moment in Atletico Madrid's season! Fidel was the one who stepped up to the mark, but he couldn't beat Oblak and find the back of the net! Off the post!
With 360 games, this match saw Diego Simeone become the Argentine coach to have taken charge of the most La Liga games in history.
Koke became the third Atletico Madrid player to reach the 350 appearances in La Liga after Adelardo (401) and Tomas Renones (367).
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