Madrid, Feb 24 (IANS) Atletico Madrid regained its footing within Spain’s La Liga Santander at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, downing Villarreal 3-1 after coming from behind and once again enjoying the spark provided by the 20-year-old Jose Felix, now off the injured list after a month hors de combat.
In their five outings without Jose Felix, Atletico has suffered two defeats (Eibar and Real Madrid) and battled to two draws (Leganes and Valencia), but with the win they are once again in the No. 3 spot on the La Liga table, tied with Sevilla at 43 points after the southern Spain team defeated Getafe 3-0 on the road, reports Efe news.
The capital squad — just off a Champions League 1-0 victory over Liverpool last week — came out with a vengeance in the first quarter hour of play but could not avoid Paco Alcacer’s shot into the twine in the 16th minute past the reaching, but not deflecting, goaltender Jan Oblak from the edge of the box to get the visitors on the board.
Alvaro Morata tried to tie things up soon thereafter only to have Villarreal goaltender Sergio Asenjo make a great save, and then to do the same thing immediately thereafter to Vitolo, who tried a header on the rebound.
Five minutes before the break, however, the home team — missing coach Diego Simeone, suspended but watching from the sidelines — managed to find the equalising combination when Villarreal’s Albiol knocked a header right to Sime Vrsaljko, who flipped the ball to Argentina’s Angel Correa, who then slid his shot right under Asenjo for the 1-1.
After the break, Atletico sent in Briton Kieran Trippier and Portugal’s Joao Felix — both of them now recovered from their injuries — to prise open the cracks in the visitors’ defence and pull out ahead on the scoreboard, and both were to make a significant splash.
First, it was Trippier who zipped out ahead along the righthand line, only to stop on a dime and knock it back to Correa, who popped a crossing shot to team captain Koke, whose header went home for the 2-1 lead in the 64th minute.
Then, 10 minutes later, it was Joao Felix’s turn, driving in toward the Villarreal goal after a steal by Koke near the area to score his third La Liga tally on a left-footed blast, albeit on a deflection.
Now, Atletico Madrid will go on the road to face off against Espanyol, currently at the bottom of the table, next weekend in La Liga play, and Villarreal will head to Athletic Bilbao’s home turf.