Suarez hits late winner to keep Atletico top of La Liga with one game left

LUIS SUAREZ SCORED the goal that could win Atletico Madrid La Liga as his 88th-minute winner snatched a remarkable 2-1 victory against Osasuna on Sunday after they looked set to hand the title to Real Madrid.

Atletico trailed with nine minutes to go at the Wanda Metropolitano and faced a defeat that would not just have postponed their bid to be champions but allowed Real Madrid, who were beating Athletic Bilbao, to go top with one game left.

Instead, Atletico scored in the 82nd and 88th minutes to pull off a stunning turnaround.  Renan Lodi smashed in an equaliser before Suarez proved the hero, firing in from eight yards to spark mass celebrations.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid kept their La Liga hopes alive following a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao.

Nacho Fernandez scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half to leave the defending champions two points adrift of rivals Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend’s concluding round of fixtures.

Zinedine Zidane, who has reportedly told his players he will leave Real at the end of the season, made two changes following their midweek win over Granada, with Alvaro Odriozola and Miguel Gutierrez coming into the Frenchman’s starting XI.

Real saw plenty of the ball in the opening half but were unable to break the deadlock with the game goalless at the interval.

On the hour mark, Luka Modric called Unai Simon into action with a fine low drive before Nacho struck after 68 minutes.

The home side failed to clear their lines from a Real corner with the ball falling to Casemiro.

His cross went through the legs of Karim Benzema and hit Nacho as the defender claimed his first goal of the season and his first since February last year.

Benzema appeared to be in an offside position but, despite a Video Assistant Referee check, the goal stood.

Athletic Bilbao then ended the match with 10 men after Raul Garcia was dismissed in the closing stages.

Elsewhere, Santi Mina shattered Barcelona’s dwindling hopes of winning the La Liga title as his brace for Celta Vigo condemned Lionel Messi and company to a 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp.

Messi briefly dragged Barca to within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid, but Santi’s brace created an insurmountable gap for Ronald Koeman’s men with just one league match remaining.

Furthermore, Real Madrid’s triumph at Athletic Bilbao leaves them as the only challengers to city rivals Atletico, with Barca now looking over their shoulders at fourth-placed Sevilla, who are two points behind.

Barca did look hungry from the off and Antoine Griezmann came close to scoring early on as he smashed Messi’s pass against visiting goalkeeper Ivan Villar.

In the 28th minute Messi, who had not long since volleyed over from a Griezmann lay-off, notched his 30th league goal of the season by heading Sergio Busquets’ cross from deep on the left beyond Villar.

The hosts’ lead lasted only 10 minutes thanks to Santi, who capitalised on Iago Aspas’ assist to find the back of the net from outside the box with what was Celta’s first shot of the game.

Barca next bared their teeth when teenage midfielder Ilaix Moriba cracked an effort goalwards in the 54th minute only to watch it sail over the bar.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen stopped Celta turning the game on its head by diving to keep out Denis Suarez’s superb low drive towards the bottom left corner, and with the final 15 minutes approaching, Barca suddenly looked troubled.

The dismissal of Clement Lenglet for a second yellow card six minutes from time meant they needed to find a winner with 10 men.

Messi and substitute Martin Braithwaite both took aim without success for the hosts and it was not to be their night – or their year – as, just before full-time, Santi arrowed home a shock winner from 18 yards out.

With reporting by © – AFP, 2021

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