Koke on target as Atletico Madrid keep faint title hopes alive with win at Rayo Vallecano


Koke makes a brilliant move to score for Atletico Madrid

Koke makes a brilliant move to score for Atletico Madrid

A fine finish from midfielder Koke was enough to earn Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday to keep their faint LaLiga title hopes alive.

Atleti closed the gap to 12 points on LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, who host fourth-placed Barcelona in the Clasico on Sunday (stream LIVE at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.). Diego Simeone's side also moved two points behind second-placed Sevilla, who welcome Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Striker Antoine Griezmann wasted several chances to break the deadlock for the visitors in the first half, with the Frenchman's finishing deserting him on numerous occasions.

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The only goal came four minutes into the second half as a perfect pass from Joao Felix picked out Koke, who swept the ball into the bottom corner with precision.

"You all know what I think of [Koke] -- his personality, his experience, he has bad moments and turns them around," Atleti boss Diego Simeone said after the match.

"When he comes back from an injury it takes him some time to get his rhythm back. He gets criticised but in his play he gives us stability, tactical positioning and he's an important player for the team."

Griezmann then missed another glorious opportunity, before |Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak kept out the home side's best effort at goal from Mario Suarez.

"In the first half we controlled the game, we played the game we wanted to, winning second balls, spending time in their half, creating chances," Simeone added.

Atletico Madrid' extended its winning streak to five by beating Rayo Vallecano 1-0 on Saturday.
OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

"At half-time we talked about being a bit calmer in their half, we were fine in our half but we needed more calmness to be more clinical in the last few minutes. Koke scored a golazo and then it was a difficult game, Rayo compete until the end."

The only dampener on a fifth successive win in all competitions for Atleti was the dismissal late on of Angel Correa, who was shown a straight red card for something he appeared to have said to the referee.

"I don't know what happened ... in the dressing room we'll talk about it," Koke said about Correa's red card. "Going down to 10 men is difficult, more so given how the game was, if that's what happened it's something to learn from for next time and it won't happen again."