Atletico Madrid scraped a 1-0 win at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday in La Liga thanks to a late header from substitute Vitolo to move into third in the standings.
Vitolo cashed in from poor positioning from Valladolid's debutant goalkeeper Jose Antonio Caro to head the ball just over the goalline. Although it was headed away by a defender, a VAR review ratified the linesman's decision to award the goal.
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The victory took Atletico on to 52 points after 30 games, level with fourth-placed Sevilla, but gave it a four-point cushion over fifth-placed Getafe to further boost its chances of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
Valladolid is 15th on 33 points, seven points above the relegation zone.
“Valladolid are a very hard-working and organised team and were very tight at the back and in the middle and it was very hard to find any gaps,” said match-winner Vitolo.
“In the end we had to get the goal from a set play but we've earned three vital points.”
Playing for the first time without fans at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico lacked the fluidity its showed in its 5-0 thrashing at Osasuna last Wednesday and was fortunate not to go behind as Valladolid impressed in the first half.
Visiting midfielder Waldo Rubio unleashed a vicious long distance strike early in the game to force an outstanding save from Atleti keeper Jan Oblak, while Brazilian Matheus Fernandes narrowly missed the target following a swift counterattack.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone was unable to engage in his usual habit of whipping the Metropolitano crowd into a frenzy as fans are still not allowed into stadiums for safety reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the coach still frantically paced along the touchline to bark orders at his players and he wildly gesticulated at the referee when Vitolo's header looked to have crossed the line.
Simeone had started without Diego Costa but turned to the combative striker midway through the second half, one of five attacking changes he made to try and break down the resolute visitor.
Costa missed two good chances to score but helped cause the chaos which led to the breakthrough, out-jumping Caro and glancing the ball across for Vitolo to head across the line.
Getafe slips up again
Getafe's bid to qualify for the Champions League for the first time continued to unravel as it could only draw 1-1 at home to struggling Eibar on Saturday although it escaped a worse fate as a late goal for the visitor was ruled out by a VAR review.
The draw kept Getafe fifth on 48 points. It is four points adrift of third-placed Atletico and fourth-placed Sevilla.
The Madrid side went ahead in the 30th minute through a well-worked move finished off by Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo but Eibar levelled in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the first half through a header from striker Charles.
Both sides had failed to win either of their first two matches since the season resumed although Eibar's Pedro Bigas thought he had clinched the three points with a glancing header in the 86th minute.
His effort, however, was ruled out for a narrow offside after a VAR review.
Eibar is 16th on 29, three above Real Mallorca which occupies the final spot in the relegation zone.
“The goal at the end of the first half did us a lot of damage, we had to start again from scratch in the second and we weren't able to create chances or get the win,” said Getafe striker Jaime Mata.
“We really needed to win this game as we needed a boost after the break in action so we'll have to keep fighting until we get that first victory.”
Also on Saturday, Espanyol sank back to the bottom of the table after being beaten 3-1 at home by Levante. Espanyol has 24 points, three behind 17th-placed Celta Vigo which has a game in hand.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao beat Real Betis 1-0 at home to move into ninth place on 42 points, increasing the pressure on Betis coach Rubi, whose side is 14th on 34.