Atletico Madrid returned to the summit of LaLiga as Luis Suarez's dramatic 90th-minute goal sealed a 2-1 win over 10-man Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.
Diego Simeone's side dropped to second following Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday, but a fourth consecutive top-flight victory restored a two-point advantage over their city rivals with still two games in hand.
Marcos Llorente put the visitors ahead after 41 minutes with his latest long-range effort – his five from outside the penalty area since the beginning of 2020 more than any other LaLiga player.
Alaves brushed off Victor Laguardia's 63rd-minute red card to pull level six minutes from time through Felipe's outrageous own goal, but Suarez popped up at the death to snatch a memorable win for Los Rojiblancos.
11- Luis Suárez has been involved in 11 goals in his opening 12 games for @atletienglish in #LaLiga (nine goals & two assists), the best starting for a Atlético's player in this century, surpassing Radamel Falcao in 2011 (9+1). Quality#AlavesAtleti #AlavesAtleti pic.twitter.com/Lt94Pmle7u— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 3, 2021
Simeone started with Joao Felix on the bench and the Portugal forward's spark was sorely missed for much of the first half.
The visitors did forge ahead four minutes before the interval, though, with just their second effort on target.
Llorente collected Suarez's pass, cut inside from the right and found Fernando Pacheco's bottom-left corner courtesy of a substantial deflection from Laguardia for his seventh goal of the season across all competitions.
Laguardia was then dismissed for a wild lunge on Thomas Lemar shortly after the hour mark, referee Juan Martinez Munuera upgrading the defender's initial yellow card after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor.
Despite that setback, the hosts – who had earlier hit the post through Florian Lejeune's header – pulled level in the 84th minute when Felipe thundered into his own net from substitute Joselu's low cross into the area.
Atleti roared back in the closing stages, however, and Suarez tapped in Joao Felix's cross from almost on the line to keep the charge for a first league title since 2013-14 on track.
What does it mean? Suarez maintains fine form to keep Atleti on track
It was not pretty but Simeone will hardly care. Atleti could easily have let their heads drop after Felipe's comical own goal but Suarez – who has been involved in 11 goals (nine goals, two assists) in his opening 12 LaLiga games for the club – had other ideas.
The result marks the 12th consecutive year Atleti have not tasted defeat in their first LaLiga game of a calendar year, with eight wins and four draws following a 3-1 defeat to Valencia in January 2009.
Koke in imperious form
Koke was outstanding at the heart of Atleti's midfield. No visiting player made more tackles (five), clearances (two) or interceptions (three) than the Spain international, while his 10 possession gains were four more than any other player on the pitch.
Laguardia's rashness costs Alaves
The Alaves defender endured a game to forget. It was his effort to block Llorente's shot that ultimately helped the ball into the bottom corner, while his out-of-control challenge on Lemar did his side no favours at all, despite Felipe's best efforts.
Key Opta Facts
- Atletico have scored more own goals than any other LaLiga team in all competitions this season with three, two of them from Felipe (one for Jan Oblak).
- Simeone's side did not allow the opposition a single first-half shot for the first time in LaLiga this season. The four total Alaves shots were the fewest Atleti have faced this term.
- Alaves have failed to win in their past 11 LaLiga games against Atleti (D4 L7), their longest current winless run against an opponent in the top flight.
- Atleti have won five of their past six away LaLiga games (L1), as many wins as in their previous 19 games away from home in the competition (W5 D11 L3).
- Alaves coach Pablo Machin is winless in his five LaLiga games against Atleti (D3 L2), with his team both scoring and conceding in each of those games.
Both sides are in Copa del Rey second-round action on Wednesday, with Atleti travelling to Cornella and Alaves away to Deportivo La Coruna.