Football: Atletico strike late to beat Rayo and top La Liga

Atletico Madrid's Argentinian midfielder Angel Correa (second left) celebrates with teammates after scoring.
Atletico Madrid's Argentinian midfielder Angel Correa (second left) celebrates with teammates after scoring.PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Late strikes from Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann gave Atletico Madrid a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano that lifted them top of La Liga ahead of Barcelona's clash with Real Betis later on Wednesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty and missed another as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1 to move to the summit temporarily before a dour performance from a depleted Atletico side until the game sprung to life in the dying stages.

Substitute Correa fired home from a Thomas Partey pass after 88 minutes and Griezmann sealed the victory.

"It was a tough battle and we managed to break through at the end," Correa told reporters. "He (coach Diego Simeone) just told me to go on and help the team to win and luckily we did."

Ronaldo blazed a spot-kick over the bar after 24 minutes but slotted home another three minutes before the break to put Real ahead.

Sociedad substitute Bruma equalised for the visitors after 49 minutes before Ronaldo struck a volley through a crowded penalty area into the net midway through the second half.

Lucas Vazquez sealed the win with a goal after 87 minutes that will ease the pressure on coach Rafa Benitez.

"Sometimes you play better or worse but what is important is to get the three points," Vazquez told reporters.

"The public has the right to applaud or whistle. We have to keep working on these lines and win games."

Atletico have 38 points from 17 games, two more than Real, and Barca are on 35 with two games in hand.

Atletico were missing regular central midfielders Gabi Fernandez and Tiago Mendes through suspension and injury while Filipe Luis was also banned.

LITTLE INVENTION

Yannick Carrasco posed the main attacking threat and went close with a couple of chances but generally there was little invention.

Fernando Torres was given the nod instead of Jackson Martinez but he is still searching for his 100th Atletico goal after a quiet game.

It was heading towards a stalemate when Correa showed his predatory instincts inside the area and struck the ball into the roof of the net.

Rayo were stunned and Griezmann took advantage to finish clinically from a Martinez pass.

Real started strongly and defender Pepe had a header from a corner tipped over by keeper Geronimo Rulli before Ronaldo was denied by the Sociedad stopper.

The Madrid side won a penalty after a slight push from fullback Yuri on Karim Benzema but Ronaldo missed a penalty for the 15th time in his career with a poor effort that went over the crossbar.

He made no mistake with a second spot-kick, though, tucking the ball into the right corner after Gareth Bale's cross was handled by Yuri.

Sociedad lost Sergio Canales with suspected knee ligament damage but came out stronger in the second half and Bruma, given too much space on the right of the area, curled a shot into the top corner.

Just as the game was turning Sociedad's way and the fans were starting to get on the back of the Real players, Ronaldo volleyed in from a corner for his 57th goal of the year and Vazquez struck late from another Bale cross.