Atletico Madrid puts four past Alaves to get back to winning ways

Saul Niguez, Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Thomas Partey scored as Atletico Madrid swept aside Deportivo Alaves in La Liga on Saturday.

Diego Costa scores against Deportivo Alaves.   -  Twitter @Atleti

Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways with a stylish 4-0 victory over Champions League-chasing Deportivo Alaves at Mendizorroza on Saturday.

Goals from Saul Niguez, Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Thomas Partey were enough to send Atletico back to within 10 points of La Liga leader Barcelona and five ahead of third-place Real Madrid, which plays on Sunday.

It was a commendable display from the visitor, who lost back-to-back matches to Juventus and Athletic Bilbao before the international break to effectively end its hopes of finishing the season with a trophy to add to last August's UEFA Super Cup triumph.

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Saul, having been denied by a good Fernando Pacheco save, had better luck with only five minutes played when he drilled a left-footed shot beneath the goalkeeper after being sent clear by Antoine Griezmann.

Atleti doubled its lead only six minutes later, Costa collecting Koke's pass 25 yards out before bending a fine strike beyond the static Pacheco and in off the right-hand post for his first league goal since November.

The visitor eased off and nearly paid the price before the break, with Saul heading the ball off the line after Tomas Pina flicked on a corner, and Alaves was furious when Thomas Lemar escaped a second yellow card for a high foot as its pressure continued in the second half.

Those frustrations were compounded moments later when Lemar slid a fine throughball into the path of Morata, who side-footed past Pacheco with aplomb from 12 yards.

Pacheco denied Griezmann a fourth with a fine one-handed stop that sent his attempted chip onto the left-hand post, but Diego Simeone's side reserved its best moment until last, with Thomas bending a stunning strike in off the woodwork with six minutes left.

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Thomas Partey (R) bent a stunning strike in off the woodwork with six minutes left to score Atletico Madrid's fourth goal against Deportivo Alaves.   -  AFP

 

What does it mean? Atleti restore order after turbulent two weeks

Crashing out of the Champions League to Juventus, losing 2-0 to Athletic and seeing Lucas Hernandez agree to an €80million move to Bayern Munich all in the last two weeks must have hurt the Atletico camp.

With that in mind, its performance here was particularly impressive, and might just serve as a reminder that it need not be all doom and gloom at the Wanda Metropolitano, even if leader Barca is 10 points clear at the top.

Griezmann brings graft and guile

Playing on the right once more, Griezmann did a lot of good defensive work to cover for Juanfran on top of his typically creative attacking display. He created three chances, earned one assist and was inches from a goal of his own.

Brasanac move backfires

Darko Brasanac was given the nod on the Alaves right ahead of Takashi Inui, and he did not repay Abelardo's faith, offering little in attack and not much cover against Saul before being replaced after less than an hour.

Key Opta facts

- Atletico Madrid is the first side to score more than one goal at Deportivo Alaves this season.
- Saul Niguez has scored three goals in his last five La Liga games, as many as he had in his previous 58 in the competition.
- Only two of Diego Costa's 66 goals in La Liga have been from outside the box.
- Jan Oblak has made his 200th appearance for Atletico in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in 56 per cent of them (112 from 200 - completed matches only).

What's next?

Atleti hosts Girona on Tuesday before next Saturday's showdown with Barca at Camp Nou. Alaves is next in action on Thursday, away to Sevilla.

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