Sub’s Partey piece sends Atletico top

MADRID: Atletico’s Thomas Partey, right, celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Levante at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday. —AP

MADRID: Atletico’s Thomas Partey, right, celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Levante at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday. —AP

BARCELONA: Substitute Thomas Partey scored his first La Liga goal as Atletico Madrid beat bottom club Levante 1-0 to go top of the table on Saturday.
Hosts Atletico lacked a finishing touch in front of goal until Partey struck nine minutes from the end with a shot that squirmed away from keeper Diego Marino. “The team is playing well and anyone could have got the goal,” the 22-year-old Partey told reporters. “I am still learning and by working hard I am having more chances to play.”
Atletico have 41 points, two more than Barca who have a game in hand. Third-placed Real Madrid are on 36 points and visit Valencia. Elsewhere, Charles and Raul Albentosa gave mid-table Malaga a 2-0 victory over fifth-placed Celta Vigo.
Keeper Ruben Blanco could have done better with both goals and was then red-carded in the 64th minute after fouling Nordin Amrabat to concede a penalty.
Amrabat took the spot kick but it was saved by substitute keeper Sergio Alvarez.
In Madrid, Saul Niguez almost gave Atletico the lead inside two minutes with a near-post header from a corner that went just over the crossbar.
Jackson Martinez had an effort well saved by Marino before defender Stefan Savic nodded the ball against the top of the bar from a corner.

GOLDEN CHANCE

At the other end Verza had a golden chance to put Levante in front on the half hour but fired wide. Atletico midfielder Koke then cracked a half-volley against the underside of the bar from 25 metres after 54 minutes and a cross from Luciano Vietto also thumped the woodwork.
The home side’s attempts were becoming ever more desperate before Partey, on the pitch for seven minutes, burst through the centre of the penalty area and Marino was unable to hold his shot as the ball crept over the line.
It was the first of three meetings in two weeks between the two Catalan teams who also clash in the King’s Cup on Wednesday.
Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has demanded more from his side in the second half of the season despite looking down on Spanish football’s perennial powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Thomas Partey’s late winner in a 1-0 victory over Levante on Saturday moved Los Rojiblancos two points clear of European champions Barcelona at the top of the table, albeit having played a game more.
Real meanwhile trail their city rivals by five points ahead of their trip to Valencia. Atletico’s success so far this season has been built on a rock solid defence that has conceded just eight goals in 18 league games.
An 11th clean sheet of the campaign was needed to see of bottom of the table Levante, though, as their struggle for goals continued as big summer signings Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto again failed to find the net.
And Simeone is well aware his side need more firepower to have any chance of repeating their incredible feat of beating Barca and Madrid to the title two years ago.
“We have one game to go until the end of the first half of the season, but leading the league will not distract us from the improvements we need,” said Simeone. “I think we can play better, have more speed in our game, be more decisive, consistent, make better choices in the final third and score more goals. That is what concerns me.”
Simeone certainly won’t be lacking for options in the coming months despite Atletico’s involvement on three fronts as they have also reached the last 16 of the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Argentine internationals Augusto Fernandez and Matias Kranevitter will be free to feature for the first time against Rayo Vallecano in the Cup in midweek after completing moves from Celta Vigo and River Plate respectively. – Agencies


This article was published on 03/01/2016