Suarez scores and Oblak saves penalty to secure Atletico win

AP , Sunday 21 Mar 2021

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (L) challenges Alaves' Argentinian midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia during the Spanish League football match between Atletico Madrid and Alaves at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on March 21, 2021. AFP

After Jan Oblak swatted the ball away with a superb penalty save in the 86th minute, Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone celebrated on the sideline as if his team had just scored a goal.

His players did, too, rushing to embrace the man who secured Atletico a win that could be decisive in the fight for the Spanish league title.

Luis Suarez had earlier scored his 500th career goal with club and country to help give Atletico a hard-fought 1-0 home win against relegation-threatened Alaves on Sunday.

``Luckily I made the stop near the end of the match and we could add the three points,'' Oblak said. ``These points are crucial for us as Real Madrid and Barcelona are coming after us.''

The win, only its third in the last seven league games, left Atletico six points in front of Real Madrid and seven ahead of Barcelona entering the international break. The Catalan club visits fifth-place Real Sociedad later Sunday. Madrid won 3-1 at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Suarez, who had scored only twice in the last nine matches in all competitions, put Atletico ahead with a diving header in the 54th minute after a cross by Kieran Trippier.

Oblak, who hadn't been successful on penalty kicks recently, preserved the victory by diving to his right to make a one-hand save against the late shot from the spot taken by Joselu.

``All great teams have these players who can be decisive by scoring goals and making saves,'' Simeone said.

The penalty came after defender Stefan Savic elbowed an opponent while trying to protect the ball at the edge of the area.

Simeone's team held a comfortable league lead until recently but had been gradually losing ground as Barcelona and Madrid charged to the top.

Atletico was coming off elimination against Chelsea in the round of 16 of the Champions League and had been held 0-0 at Getafe in its previous Spanish league match.

Alaves has lost five of its last six league games. It sits second-to-last in the 20-team standings with 23 points, two from safety.

Atletico next visits fourth-place Sevilla and Barcelona hosts relegation-threatened Valladolid.

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