Atletico Madrid, Clubs, Eibar, Spanish Primera División, Story

Atletico Madrid’s record signing Thomas Lemar came off the bench to score late on and snatch a 1-0 win at Eibar on Saturday, provisionally taking Atletico six points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona.

Diego Simeone’s side have 68 points after 33 games, nine fewer than Barca who restored their advantage at the top of the table when they host Real Sociedad later on Saturday.

France winger Lemar settled an exciting and open game in the 85th minute, racing towards the far post to meet a pass from midfielder Koke and slam the ball into the net from close range.

“This is a very important win for us,” said Atletico coach Simeone.

“In the first half we thought we could cause them more damage by playing a short passing game and in the second half things were more even and it became clear whoever scored first would win the game. Luckily it was us.”

Atletico were without top scorer Antoine Griezmann due to a one-match suspension as well as missing striker Diego Costa, who has been banned for the remainder of the season for insulting a referee.

Yet they still had the better chances and should have taken the lead in the eighth minute when Argentine forward Angel Correa burst into the box but fired straight into the body of Eibar keeper Marko Dmitrovic.

Spain striker Alvaro Morata also had a good chance to break the deadlock for Atletico shortly after the interval but missed the target from inside the box.

Koke later had a shot tipped over the bar from Dmitrovic, who pulled off an even better save to keep out a header from Atleti captain Diego Godin.

Eibar’s Joan Jordan gave Atletico keeper Jan Oblak a scare with a long-range dipping shot which landed just over the bar, moments before Lemar finally found a breakthrough, giving Atletico their fifth consecutive win away to Eibar.

Simeone said on BeIn Sports after the game that his team would give continue to chase to Barcelona as long as they had hope in the title race.

“We will keep going until the last breath,” Simeone said. “It was all very difficult today, always is here, the opponent competes extraordinarily well. They are the best team pressing at home in La Liga, always very dangerous on the break.

“When we understood how to hurt them, with quick passing in our transitions, but their keeper kept stopping us. When the game was evening up in the second half both teams had chances to win the game. We took one through Lemar and it is a very important win for us.”

The Argentine was also asked about his tactical decisions during the game, including midfielder Saul Niguez at left-back at the start, and fellow midfielder Thomas Partey ending the 90 minutes at right-back.

“We kept trying different things,” Simeone said. “We always look for options, different ways to play better. Saul on the left, Thomas was a No. 10, then right-back. Games last 90 minutes and we have the fortune to have very versatile players which allows you change things and win the game.”

Reuters and ESPN FC Madrid correspondent Dermot Corrigan contributed to this report.

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