MADRID, Spain (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres came off the bench to fire his side to a 1-0 win at home to Alaves on Saturday which took Diego Simeone’s side up to second in La Liga above Valencia, who stumbled to a 2-1 defeat at Eibar.
Crowd favourite Torres was brought on in the second half to give Atletico an extra attacking edge and the Spanish veteran had been on the pitch only a few moments when he slid in a low cross from Sime Vrsaljko to score in the 74th minute.
It was the 33-year-old’s first league goal of the season and it gave Atletico a fourth straight league win, taking them three points behind Liga leaders Barcelona.
Simeone’s side, who along with Barca are the only unbeaten team in the league, were boosted by the return of talismanic forward Antoine Griezmann but until Torres came on they had struggled to create openings against relegation-threatened Alaves.
The Basque side remain 18th in the standings but have been revitalised by the arrival of coach Abelardo Fernandez, who had guided the team to two wins from his two games in charge before their trip to the Spanish capital.
“We didn’t have that many chances but we still dominated the game and I’m delighted with the attitude of the substitutes because we are where we are right now because of the efforts of whole group,” Simeone told reporters.
“Atletico’s history is full of tight games like this but in recent years we have managed to have more positive endings to them than negative ones.”
Valencia saw their unlikely title tilt dented by a much-improved Eibar side, who twice took the lead after the break and held on to win their fourth game in five and inflict a second consecutive away defeat on Marcelino’s side.
Atletico are second in the standings on 36 points, behind Barca, who host Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, while Valencia are third on 34. Real Madrid, fourth on 31, missed the weekend’s domestic action due to playing in the Club World Cup final, where they beat Gremio 1-0.
Japanese international Takashi Inui put Eibar ahead in the 49th minute in heavy rain with the help of some haphazard defending from the visitors, who twice failed to clear the danger inside the area and allowed the midfielder to take advantage.
Valencia were without top scorer Simone Zaza through suspension while winger Carlos Soler was injured, but Santi Mina levelled for Marcelino’s side eight minutes after they had conceded with a simple near-post finish from close range.
The visitors failed to build up any momentum with their equaliser, however, and Eibar came back at them even stronger.
Midfielder Joan Jordan headed in the winning goal in the 87th minute to give Eibar a deserved win, their fourth in five games, and inflict a second consecutive away defeat on Valencia following their 1-0 reverse at Getafe two weeks ago, which was their first loss of the campaign.
Eibar had more than twice as many shots as the visitors did but managed to hit the target only three times, and Valencia coach Marcelino felt his side had been hard done by.
“The last two away games have been tough for us but today I think we played well in the first half and didn’t have too many problems in the second half either. What is happening is our opponents have few chances but they are taking them,” he told reporters.
“We are struggling a bit away from home recently. The defeat at Getafe might have been fair but today I don’t think Eibar deserved to win.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Clare Fallon