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Early Griezmann goal enough for Atletico

Madrid (AFP) – Antoine Griezmann scored after just 39 seconds as Atletico Madrid won 1-0 away at bottom side Malaga on Saturday to move to within six points of La Liga leaders Barcelona.

The French striker fired home his eighth league goal of the campaign from inside the box after a Saul Niguez shot was deflected into his path.

It was Atletico’s eighth victory by a 1-0 margin in La Liga this season and it puts some pressure back on Barcelona, although they can again move nine points clear at the top by beating Getafe at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Griezmann marked his goal by holding up a shirt carrying the name of Nacho Barbera, in a tribute to the 15-year-old Atletico fan who died suddenly during a youth game near Valencia last weekend.

Once again Atletico — for whom recent signing Vitolo made his first La Liga start — were reliant on Jan Oblak, with their Slovenian goalkeeper making one fine save from a Roberto Rosales free-kick.

Malaga remain rooted to the foot of the table after the defeat.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Villarreal squandered an opportunity to climb above Real Madrid into the top four, for a few hours at least, as they lost 2-1 at home to Alaves.

Rodrigo Ely and substitute Ibai Gomez scored for the visitors at the Estadio de la Ceramica, with Carlos Bacca pulling one back.

Villarreal’s second straight defeat left them fifth in the table, two points behind Real Madrid in fourth, having played two games more.

Zinedine Zidane’s side entertain Real Sociedad later on Saturday in their final outing before the Champions League last-16 showdown with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in the Spanish capital.

A win will lift Madrid into third above Valencia, who host local rivals Levante on Sunday evening looking to end a run of six straight defeats in all competitions.

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