Madrid : Atletico Madrid took another step toward securing a spot in the Champions League next season by defeating Real Sociedad 1-0 for its fifth win in a row in the Spanish league.
Filipe Luis scored for the second straight match yesterday and Atletico opened up a three-point gap on fourth-place Sevilla, which plays Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Atletico is now 10 points in front of fifth-place Villarreal, the first team out of the qualification zone for the Champions League. The third-placed team automatically qualifies to the competition next year, while the fourth-place club has to go through a playoff.
Real Sociedad dropped from fifth to seventh in the standings. It could have reduced its gap to Atletico to six points had it won at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. Real Sociedad hasn’t won in four straight matches.
Atletico was in control from the start and Luis found the net from close range in the 28th minute after a quick exchange of passes with Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres.
Luis had also scored in the team’s 2-0 victory at Malaga over the weekend. The Brazilian left back had not yet scored this season.
Real Sociedad improved in the second half but it was Atletico which had most of the scoring chances, including great ones with Torres and Angel Correa.
Atletico has won eight of its last 10 league matches and is enjoying its best run of the season. Diego Simeone’s defense has been working well again, conceding only once in the last five league games.
Atletico overtook Sevilla for third place last weekend after having dropped to as low as sixth in the standings earlier in the competition.
Leader Real Madrid plays at Leganes to defend its two-point lead over Barcelona. Madrid still has a game in hand.
Aritz Aduriz scored twice in the first half to move Athletic closer to a Europa League spot.
The veteran striker converted a 17th-minute penalty and sealed the victory in the 37th to give Athletic its fourth win in five matches.
The result moved Athletic to sixth place, the last spot to secure a berth in the second-tiered European competition next year.
Aduriz has scored four goals in the last three league games with Athletic.
Espanyol stayed in ninth place.
Forward Adrian Lopez scored early in the second half to give Villarreal an away victory that keeps it in contention for a Champions League spot.
Real Betis, which nearly equalised when Dani Ceballos’ shot struck the woodwork deep in stoppage time, remains in 14th place and still isn’t clear of relegation.