Atletico sweep aside Celta Vigo to top La Liga

Andy West 04:00 11/01/2016
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Enjoying life: Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco.

Atletico Madrid returned to the top of La Liga with a smooth and assured victory at Celta Vigo, made possible by a magnificent defence which prevented the hosts from creating a single clear chance.

The outstanding Antoine Griezmann and substitute Yannick Carrasco grabbed the goals in the second half, but the key to the victory was at the back and Atletico have now conceded just eight goals in their 19 league games this season, once again underlining their title credentials with three thoroughly deserved points at a venue where Barcelona lost 4-1 in September.

The game had been in severe doubt after torrential rain in Vigo left the Balaidos stadium flooded, and although it was eventually able to go ahead, the players were confronted by an uneven and very soft playing surface.

Celta, who were looking to bounce back after suffering two straight league losses, initially settled better and took the game to Atletico in the opening stages without being able to fashion any openings.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone handed a full debut to Augusto Fernandez against his former club, and the ex-Celta midfielder formed part of a narrow and tightly packed four-man midfield, with the visitors determined to show their usual solidity.

Celta, by contrast, were attempting to play with width and managed to overcome the poor condition of the pitch to string together a flowing passing move midway through the opening period, culminating in the first opportunity of the game as striker Iago Aspas headed wide from a left-wing cross.

Until that point Atletico’s attacking threat had been limited to sporadic breaks from quick forwards Luciano Vietto and Griezmann, but they gradually grew into the game and went on to dominate the remainder of the opening period.

With Saul Niguez prominent in much of their attacking play, Atletico created the best chance of the opening period as Griezmann exchanged passes with Koke to shoot from the edge of the box, but his effort flew over the top.

Atletico started the second half in a similar fashion and soon took the lead with a wonderfully worked goal, as Koke cut inside to find Griezmann whose lay-off released Vietto down the left, and his low cross was perfectly into the path of Griezmann for the Frenchman to fire home.

Simeone reacted to going ahead by reverting to a 4-5-1 formation with scorer Griezmann moving to the right wing, and his team continued to dominate as substitute Carrasco fired a long-range strike over the bar.

With the rain pouring down to threaten another flood, Celta tried to react by bringing on another striker, Jon Guidetti, but Atletico’s magnificent defence was standing as firm as ever and the visitors always looked capable of doubling their lead on the break.

And that is exactly what happened with 10 minutes remaining, as the livewire Carrasco picked up a loose ball and drove towards goal, beating two defenders before thrashing a fierce left-footed shot into the back of the net, killing off the game as Atleti’s defence did the rest to secure another clean sheet.

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