Atletico tops Valladolid, continues pursuit of Real Madrid
MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid won't slow down in its pursuit of Real Madrid for second place in the Spanish league.
Atletico continued its strong push on Sunday by picking up its eighth win in nine matches with a 5-2 victory at Valladolid.
Third-place Atletico scored three times in the first half and added two late goals in a result that kept Diego Simeone's team two points behind city rival Madrid with six rounds remaining. Madrid beat Almeria 4-2 on Saturday at home. Second place is especially important because it guarantees a spot in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Atletico's only recent setback was a 1-0 loss at leader Barcelona at Camp Nou two rounds ago. Barcelona beat Real Betis 4-0 at home on Saturday and has a comfortable 11-point lead over Madrid entering the final stretch.
“We have good momentum, we've been competing very well,” Atletico defender José María Giménez said. “There is still a lot of league left and we have to stay on this path.”
Atletico scored through Nahuel Molina in the 20th minute, Giménez in the 24th, Álvaro Morata in the 38th, an own-goal by Joaquín Fernández in the 86th and Memphis Depay in stoppage time.
Valladolid — sitting in 15th place, four points from the relegation zone — scored with a penalty kick converted by Cyle Larin in the 42nd and with a goal from Sergio Escudero in the 74th. It was the second loss in a row for the team owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo.
“We were doing well with a 3-0 lead but they suddenly got back into the game and made it difficult for us,” Simeone said.
Atletico is eight points ahead of fourth-place Real Sociedad, which holds the final Champions League spot.
Valencia failed to distance itself from the relegation zone after losing 2-1 at Cadiz.
The defeat ended Valencia's two-game winning streak and left it in 17th place, two points from danger.
Gonzalo Escalante and Sergi Guardiola scored a goal in each half to move Cadiz to 14th, two points more than Valencia. Samuel Lino scored for the visitors.
Valencia, which last played in the second division in 1986-87, had needed a stoppage-time winner to beat Valladolid 2-1 at home in the previous round. It won 2-0 at last-place Elche before that to end a four-game winless streak.
Valencia avoided dropping into the relegation zone thanks to Espanyol's 1-0 win against Getafe, a result that left both clubs two points below Valencia.
Joselu converted a first-half penalty kick to end Espanyol's eight-match winless streak.
VILLARREAL IN CONTENTION
Nicolas Jackson scored two goals in the first 12 minutes as fifth-place Villarreal beat Celta Vigo 3-1 to keep pace with Sociedad in the fight for the final Champions League spot.
Ramón Terrats also scored for Villarreal, which trails Sociedad by five points. Sociedad won 2-0 at Osasuna on Friday.
Villarreal has won five of its last seven games. Celta, sitting in 13th place, has only one win in its last six matches.
On Monday, Sevilla hosts Girona, and Athletic Bilbao visits Mallorca.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press