Atletico edge past Barca to earn title boost as Real Madrid held

Atletico Madrid have significantly increased their hopes of winning La Liga on Saturday with their 1-0 win over Barcelona and their worst start to a league season in 29 years.
Yannick Carrasco ended brilliantly from distance after mistakes by Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre ter Stegen left the goal gaping, but Barca and a sub-par Lionel Messi did not react at Wanda Metropolitano.
Instead, Atletico recorded their first league win against Barcelona in 10 years, placing them three points ahead of Real Madrid with one game in hand and second in the table with early leaders Real Sociedad.
The opponents are in tenth place, with Barcelona's 11 points from their first eight games being their worst record since the 1991/92 season.
"Like any coach, I'm responsible," said coach Ronald Koeman. "We know we have to improve the results. I continue to trust the players I have."
Real Madrid had previously recorded a formal 1-1 draw with reigning champions Villarreal, another slip up for the reigning champions to reinforce the feeling that this could be Atletico's year.
And beating Barcelona in the league for the first time since 2010 - before Simeone arrived as coach - will do wonders for the team's conviction and add to what is now a significant advantage in the table.
It also extended Atletico's undefeated run in the league to 24 games.
Another disappointing day for Barca was made worse by the sight of Pique hobbling away in tears with a knee injury.
Pique was injured in a collision with Angel Correa and was in distress when he left.
"I'm worried," said Koeman. "A lot of damage has been done."
Antoine Griezmann almost put Barca in front against his old club, while Marcos Llorente came closest for Atletico and after a decent exchange between Kieran Trippier and Correa skimmed the bar on the right.
Messi might have scored but was unusually hesitant. A straight half was on the verge of going goalless until two mistakes gave Atletico the lead.
Pique got out of position after a heavy touch and Mario Hermoso was able to free Carrasco well. Ter Stegen, already on the field, rushed out to fill the gap left by Pique, but Carrasco's first touch led the ball through the goalkeeper's legs before a curling finish from 50 yards into the open net sent.
Clement Lenglet should have equalized but headed Messi's cross directly at Jan Oblak, but Barcelona were far from dominant and Messi was fighting for his usual influence.
Philippe Coutinho came and Pique hobbled away. Messi floated a free kick wide and saw a shot blocked before substitute Martin Braithwaite got a late chance after a bad kick from Oblak. But Barca couldn't find a way.
- Slip properly again -
Previously, Real Madrid had to accept a draw against Villarreal.
Mariano Diaz gave Madrid the lead after just 105 seconds, but Zinedine Zidane's side faded in La Ceramica and Villarreal earned a well-deserved point from Gerard Moreno's penalty in the second half.
"It feels like a little treat," said Zidane. "We deserved more today for the game we played. I am annoyed with the boys' efforts."
Mariano was almost sold last summer, but had to stand up for the injured Karim Benzema and Luka Jovic, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday.
Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao and Casemiro were absent after the international break. Nacho Fernandez and an unsuitable Raphael Varane were behind, while Martin Odegaard made a rare start in midfield.
Given the absenteeism, a draw shouldn't worry Zidane too much, especially against a lively Villarreal side who finished second at kick-off after four straight wins.
However, another slip up means Madrid have only won three of their last seven games in all competitions. On Wednesday, Inter Milan will be vital to the Champions League.
ta / jc

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