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Celta joint top, Griezmann lifts Atletico

Atletico de Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann (right), duels for the ball with Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez, during their Spanish La Liga soccer match, at Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian, northern Spain, Oct 18. (AP)
Atletico de Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann (right), duels for the ball with Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez, during their Spanish La Liga soccer match, at Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian, northern Spain, Oct 18. (AP)

MADRID, Oct 18, (RTRS): Celta Vigo joined Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of La Liga when Nolito’s late strike snatched a 2-1 victory at 10-man Villarreal, while Atletico Madrid stayed firmly in the hunt thanks to a 2-0 success at Real Sociedad on Sunday. Surprise package Celta, who hammered champions Barca 4-1 at the end of September, again impressed with some sparkling play at the Madrigal to prevent Villarreal climbing back into first place above Spain’s big two. Former Sociedad forward Antoine Griezmann netted a superb goal for Atletico to set them on their way at the Anoeta in San Sebastian, where the home side had two players sent off in the final stages. Real, who thumped Levante 3-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday when Cristiano Ronaldo set a club scoring record, are top on goal difference after eight matches, with Celta second and champions Barca third, with all three on 18 points.

Barca’s Brazil forward Neymar netted four goals and created one for Luis Suarez in Saturday’s 5-2 success at home to Rayo Vallecano. Atletico, the 2013-14 champions, have 16 points in fourth, with Villarreal are also on 16 in fifth. Villarreal had the better of the opening stages against Celta but the Galician side switched up a gear towards the end of the first half and Fabian Orellana curled in a sweet shot in the 41st minute to put them ahead. Villarreal were reduced to 10 men two minutes into the second period when defender Eric Bailly, who had earlier been booked for a wild tackle, was shown a second yellow card after he flung out an arm and handled the ball. Celta struggled to capitalise on their one-man advantage and squandered several chances before former Celta youth player Denis Suarez levelled with a deflected 67th-minute effort.

Chile international Orellana was again instrumental in the winning goal as another superb curled effort in the 90th minute crashed down off the crossbar. Spain winger Nolito, who earlier struck a shot against a post, controlled the rebound and fired low past Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. “We are really pleased and we just have to enjoy it,” Celta defender Gustavo Cabral told Spanish television. “It was really tough here,” added the Argentine, whose side’s next match is at home to Real next weekend. “We have put in a huge effort to get where we are and it should be a great match against Madrid.” France forward Griezmann has been on superb form this season and used his electric pace in the ninth minute to race through the centre and put Atletico ahead with an exquisite chip over Sociedad keeper Geronimo Rulli.

The 24-year-old, who joined Sociedad as a teenager, did not celebrate the goal but was still given a hard time throughout the match by some of the home fans still upset with his decision to leave for Atletico in 2014. Sociedad pressed hard for a goal in the second half without troubling Atletico’s obdurate defence too much before the match ended in controversy when the home side had a penalty claim turned down in the first minute of added time. Atletico broke quickly and Yannick Carrasco was sent clear by fellow substitute Fernando Torres to make it 2-0. Sociedad forward Jonathas, who had only been on the pitch a few minutes, was dismissed for protesting to the referee. Team mate Diego Reyes had been shown two cards in quick succession shortly before the penalty incident, one for a cynical foul on Torres and one for protesting. Sociedad, coach by former Everton and Manchester United manager David Moyes, are hovering just above the relegation places with only six points and one win this term.

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