Atletico seals return to Champions League after Real defeat

Atletico Madrid rebounded from its stinging loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League by sealing its return to the continent’s top-tier competition on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid forward Yanick Carrasco shoots against Eibar.   -  REUTERS

Atletico Madrid rebounded from its stinging loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League by sealing its return to the continent’s top-tier competition on Saturday.

Atletico’s 1-0 victory at home over Eibar ensured Diego Simeone’s side will finish in the top four places in the Spanish league with two matches remaining.

Atletico remained in third place, five points ahead of Sevilla in fourth and 11 ahead of Villarreal in fifth before it plays at Barcelona later.

Atletico lost 3-0 at Real Madrid in the opening leg of its Champions League semifinal on Tuesday. The return leg is next Wednesday.

Far from being downcast following that defeat, Atletico’s fans cheered loudly throughout the match and applauded players after the final whistle.

“It’s incredible, our fans are with us until the end,” said goal-scorer Saul Niguez. “We gave it our all, just like our fans despite the result of the other day. They will be with us again on Wednesday. We will do everything we can to pull off the comeback.”

The top three spots in Spain earn automatic berths to next season’s Champions League group phase while the fourth-placed finisher must go through a playoff.

Atletico labored to the win thanks to Niguez’ 69th-minute goal. The midfielder drilled in a low cross by Diego Godin that substitute Fernando Torres smartly decided not to touch when it crossed his path.

Godin was sent off in stoppage time after picking up two quick bookings, ruling him out of the penultimate round at Real Betis.

Eibar pressed for a late equalizer, but was left in eighth place.

SPORTING GIJON 1, LAS PALMAS 0

Carlos Carmona’s goal midway through the second half gave Sporting hope that it can avoid relegation.

Sporting’s first win in eight rounds lifted it to within three points of Leganes, which hosts Real Betis on Monday.

Osasuna and Granada have already been relegated.

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