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Morata double keeps up Atletico Madrid’s Barca chase



San Sebastian (Spain), March 3, 2019 (Reuters/NNN) Atletico Madrid kept up their pursuit of La Liga leaders FC Barcelona with an Alvaro Morata double in a 2-0 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

But it was done in grim fashion, as they had to play the final half hour of the match with 10 men after Koke was sent off.

Morata, who had scored his first goal for the club in last week’s 2-0 win over Villarreal, rose to head home from close range on the half hour mark.

This was after a corner kick which had been flicked on by Atletico Madrid captain Diego Godin.

Morata, who signed for Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea in January after a poor spell in the English Premier League (EPL), used his aerial prowess again three minutes later.

It was to double his side’s advantage, glancing in a free kick from Koke.

Spain midfielder Koke earned his first yellow card late in the first half and clumsily picked up a second booking in the 62nd minute.

It means he is suspended from next week’s game at home to Leganes, as is Godin, who picked up a yellow card.

But Diego Simeone’s side coped admirably and rarely looked like letting their lead slip.

They held on to record an important victory after losing on three of their previous four trips to Anoeta.

Atletico Madrid are second in the La Liga standings on 53 points, moving five clear of third-placed Real Madrid and closing to within seven of leaders FC Barcelona.

FC Barcelona have 60 points after winning 1-0 at Real Madrid in Saturday’s “Clasico’’.

Simeone paid tribute to Morata for deciding the game, saying he had never doubted the striker’s ability.

“Whenever we sign a player we expect he will play at his best, although some take longer to adapt than others,” he told a news conference.

“But I’m even happier with how Morata has worked and adapted to the team than his goals.

“The top players always take less time to adapt. He’s not a boy any more and he has the exact qualities we expected him to have.”

Morata himself added that Atletico Madrid would not give up their pursuit of Barca.

“We have to win every point we can and hope Barca slip up along the way. As long as there are points on the table, we’re going to keep fighting,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to win here. It’s a very tough stadium and a very tough opponent. So, these are three vital points for us.”(Reuters/NNN)

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Spain recalls Morata to squad, Ansu Fati, Ceballos miss out



Spain have recalled Alvaro Morata for their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Malta and Romania after the striker scored five times in his last five games for Atletico Madrid.

Spain, who have already qualified for next year’s championship, need to avoid defeat in one of their two remaining games in order to progress as Group F winners.

There was a maiden call up for Dani Olmo, however, Barcelona’s Ansu Fati and Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos missed out.

Zagreb forward Olmo, who was a key part of the Spain Under-21 side that won this year’s European Championship, has impressed for the Croatian side in the Champions League this season.

The squad contains just five players from Spain’s so-called ‘big three’ sides are Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

Manchester City midfielder Rodri, who has not played since Oct. 22 due to a hamstring problem, is included while Barcelona’s Jordi Alba misses out through injury.

There is also no place for Barca team mate Fati.

The 17-year-old forward was granted Spanish citizenship in September before making his Under-21 debut last month.

He is expected to be named by Luis de la Fuente in the U-21 squad later on Friday.

Spain host Malta on Nov. 15 and Romania three days later.

Spain squad in full:

Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), Pau Lopez (Roma)

Defenders: Jose Gaya (Valencia), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Inigo Martinez (Athletic), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Juan Bernat (PSG), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Jesus Navas (Sevilla)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Thiago (Bayern), Saul Niguez (Atletico), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal)

Forwards: Rodrigo (Valencia), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Alvaro Morata (Atletico), Dani Olmo (Dinamo Zagreb)


Edited by Remi Koleoso/Felix Ajide

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Morata goal helps Atletico Madrid to beat Bayer Leverkusen



Atletico Madrid substitute Alvaro Morata scored a late second half header to give his team a 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

The win sent them top of their UEFA Champions League Group D.

In a game of few chances and many mistakes, neither team came close to breaking the deadlock before Morata scored.

He did this with a powerful downward header from a Renan Lodi cross in the 78th minute.

The goal gave the hosts a major boost for a top-two finish and a spot in the knockout stages.

The Spaniards, unbeaten now in three group games, are on seven points, three ahead of Italy’s Juventus, who played against third-placed Lokomotiv Moscow later on Tuesday.

The Germans, without a point, are in last place and all but eliminated in the run for a spot in the last 16.

Atletico, who have now failed to score during the first half in their last six UEFA Champions League matches, lacked spark and intensity in the first half, with Leverkusen in control in midfield.

The visitors gradually started finding pockets of space with Kevin Volland and Kerem Demirbay but they also were missing the final pass.

Lodi completed a quickfire move with a fine first touch and shot to test Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky in a rare Atletico attack in the first half.

The game picked up the pace after the break, with the hosts becoming more aggressive and Diego Costa in front of goal narrowly missing to connect with a Kieran Trippier cross.

Morata did it better in the 78th when he headed in Lodi’s cross for the winner.


(Edited by Olawale Alabi)

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Morata determined to extend Atletico stay




“I am very clear that I want to stay here. Leaving here has not crossed my mind.

“I hope it gets resolved as soon as possible, I’m happy here and I want to be here for the rest of my career,” Morata told Spanish newspaper Marca.

“As long as the club wants me and the fans are happy I want to be here. I’ve found happiness here. I’m where I want to be.”

Morata has rediscovered his form at Atletico after a poor spell at Stamford Bridge, scoring six goals in 13 La Liga starts, but Chelsea have the option to recall Morata from his loan spell.


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Atletico look to resurgent Morata to make impact against Alaves



Atletico look to resurgent Morata to make impact against Alaves

Morata scored both goals in Spain’s 2-0 win over Malta on Tuesday to make it five strikes in his last six games for club and country, his best form since making a flying start when he joined Chelsea in 2017.

That promising start in the Premier League soon fizzled out, leading Morata to return to the club he joined as a child in a bid to recover his confidence.

Even though he is scoring again, he is determined to prove a point after his stints with Real Madrid and Chelsea ended in disappointment.

“Many people seem to hope I don’t score so they can make comments about me,” Morata told reporters after his brace against Malta.

 “I feel that everyone is watching me closely and I have felt like everyone is criticising me since I started to play for Real Madrid’s first team. It used to affect me a lot, now less so, the important thing is to stay in the coach’s plans.”

The pressure is now on Morata to be consistent and score again for his stuttering side, who have had their confidence knocked following defeats by Juventus – which knocked them out of the Champions League – and Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.

Atletico’s hopes of capturing the Spanish league title are disappearing rapidly as they trail leaders Barcelona by 10 points.

Barca resume their title bid with a city derby at home to Espanyol but they have a shortage of forwards, with top scorers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez facing a battle to be fit in time.

Messi strained a muscle while on international duty with Argentina against Venezuela, while Uruguay forward Suarez stayed in Barcelona to recover from an ankle sprain.

France forward Ousmane Dembele is ruled out of the derby with a hamstring injury.


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Morata nets first Atletico Madrid goal in comfortable win over Villarreal



Barcelona (Spain), Feb. 24, 2019 (dpa/NNN) Alvaro Morata scored his first goal for Atletico Madrid since arriving on loan from Chelsea in a 2-0 win over Villarreal on Sunday in La Liga.

Saul Niguez added the second in the final stages for Diego Simeone’s side, who are second, seven points behind leaders FC Barcelona, while Villarreal remain 18th.

Morata had goals ruled out against his former sides Real Madrid and Juventus in previous games and saw a strike disallowed for offside in the 22nd minute against Villarreal.

However, the striker broke the deadlock shortly afterwards.

That was when he steered home Filipe Luis’s cross from the left to put the finishing touch on a slick team move and delight the Wanda Metropolitano.

Jose Gimenez blocked a Mario Gaspar effort in front of goal in the second half as Villarreal pushed for an equaliser, but eventually Saul wrapped up the points for the hosts.

Diego Costa sent the midfielder through on goal and he lobbed the ball high over Sergio Asenjo and down over Victor Ruiz on the goal-line.

Earlier Martin Braithwaite’s 89th minute equaliser earned Leganes a 1-1 draw with Valencia, leaving the visitors frustrated.

Valencia have drawn an incredible 15 matches out of 25 this season in Spain’s top flight and sit eighth after a disappointing draw with Leganes, 12th.

Geoffrey Kondogbia sent Valencia ahead at Butarque, heading home from Carlos Soler’s crossed free-kick.

Los Che were on top, dominating the ball but failing to create many clear chances.

Leganes, who have lost just one match at home all season in La Liga, refused to give up.

Denmark striker Braithwaite tucked home the equaliser from close range after his first effort was blocked.

Only a good save from Neto stopped Leganes going on to win the game in stoppage time, with the goalkeeper denying Youssef En-Nesryi, who should have scored.

“Leganes had a great game. We know how they play and they do it really well. We didn’t have control of the ball like in the first half and they scored an avoidable goal,” said Valencia defender Cristiano Piccini after their fourth consecutive league draw.

“We are furious, obviously, we work to win and lately it’s been really hard for us. We’re drawing a lot and everyone is fuming at this result.”(dpa/NNN)

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Liverpool knocked out of UEFA Champions League by Atletico Madrid’s extra-time triple



Holders Liverpool crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in the last 16 round on Wednesday after Atletico Madrid struck three times in extra time.

The Spanish side earned a shock 3-2 victory at Anfield to go through 4-2 on aggregate, after having won the first leg 1-0 at home about two weeks earlier.

After falling 2-0 down on the night, substitute Marcos Llorente struck twice in extra time.

Alvaro Morata added a late third to ensure a famous victory for Diego Simeone’s side against a Liverpool team unbeaten in their last 25 home games in European competition.

Liverpool broke through two minutes before half-time when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain burst to the byline.

He pulled back a cross to Georginio Wijnaldum who powered an angled header into the bottom corner.

After the interval, Liverpool peppered Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak but the Spaniards survived.

They almost pulled off a last-minute shock when a header from Saul Niguez was ruled out for offside.

Liverpool took the lead in the tie four minutes into extra-time, with Roberto Firmino heading against the post and then driving home the loose ball.

Yet then it all went wrong for Juergen Klopp’s side —– a dreadful pass out from goalkeeper Adrian straight to Joao Felix, gifted Atletico the ball.

Llorente punished the Liverpool goalkeeper for his error with a precise shot into the far corner.

Llorente then produced a carbon copy finish as Liverpool’s defence backed off following good work on the counter from Morata.

This effectively ended Liverpool’s hopes of defending their European crown.

Morata put the icing on the cake in the final moments after a breakaway.


Edited By: Olawale Alabi)

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New signing Braithwaite vows not to wash Barca shirt after Messi embrace



New FC Barcelona signing Martin Braithwaite had an ideal start to his career with the club by providing two assists in a 5-0 drubbing of Eibar on Saturday.

Now he has already decided how he wants to remember the occasion —- by never washing his shirt.

Lionel Messi was already on three goals when Braithwaite came off the bench two days after completing a surprise move from La Liga strugglers Leganes.

The Denmark international soon helped the Barca captain get his fourth goal.

The 28-year-old beat a defender before sending a diagonal pass towards Messi, who teased his way past Eibar’s goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic to make it 4-0 before congratulating his new team mate.

“I won’t wash my clothes after I hugged Messi.

“He congratulated me, he’s a great guy and tried to make me feel comfortable on the pitch by passing to me often.

“I am very happy to have given my first assist to Leo,” Braithwaite told reporters.

Braithwaite was not far from marking his first appearance for Barca with a goal in the final few minutes of the game.

He fired a shot at Dmitrovic which the goalkeeper parried into the feet of Arthur Melo who tapped into the empty net.

“I feel bad for not having scored, but Dmitrovic did very well.

“It was an extraordinary debut, a dream come true. When the coach called me to warm up I was a bit nervous but looking forward to getting on.

“I feel very good here, I am surrounded by fantastic players,” added Braithwaite.

(Edited By: Remi Koleoso and Olawale Alabi)

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Atletico Madrid stun FC Barcelona to reach Super Cup final



Atletico Madrid pulled off a stunning turnaround to beat FC Barcelona 3-2 in an enthralling Spanish Super Cup tie in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

They thus booked their place in the final of the revamped competition where they will face Real Madrid on Sunday.

Argentine forward Angel Correa struck the decisive goal in the 86th minute to complete an unlikely late comeback for Atletico Madrid.

That was after Barca had dominated the second half and had two goals ruled out following VAR reviews.

Substitute Koke had put Atletico Madrid in front at the start of the second half, but Lionel Messi levelled in the 51st minute.

Messi soon put the ball in the net again but his second effort was ruled out for handball following a VAR review.

Former Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann did put Barca in front in the 65th while Gerard Pique thought he had extended their lead moments later.

However, that goal was also ruled out after a VAR review, this time for a fractional offside against Arturo Vidal.

Atletico Madrid had spent most of the second half trying to stop waves of Barca attacks but got a lifeline when substitute Vitolo was tripped by goalkeeper Neto.

Striker Alvaro Morata then equalised from the penalty kick spot in the 81st minute.

Stand-in goalkeeper Neto was also at fault for the winning goal, failing to properly block Correa’s shot which bounced into the net to cap an incredible match.

(Edited by: Olawale Alabi)

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Atletico Madrid go fourth with win at Real Betis



Atletico Madrid moved back into the top four in La Liga with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Real Betis on Sunday.

They therefore recorded back-to-back league victories for the first time since the beginning of September.

Substitute Angel Correa put Atletico in front in the 58th minute, chasing down defender Alex Moreno and winning the ball back before rounding goalkeeper Joel Robles and passing into the net.

Striker Alvaro Morata doubled Atletico’s lead in the 84th minute by turning in a cross from Correa with a back-heeled finish.

It helped him to get a confidence-boosting goal after hitting the post in the first half and having a strike ruled out for offside.

Real Betis hit the woodwork in either half and finally scored in added time when Marc Bartra bundled the ball into the net from a crowded penalty area.

The win followed last week’s 2-0 success over Osasuna and was the first time Diego Simeone’s strike had strung two victories together in domestic competition.

That was since they won their opening three games of the campaign.

Atletico Madrid are fourth on 32 points after 18 games while Real Betis are 13th on 23 points.

(Edited by: Olawale Alabi)

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