La Liga prospects fading as fatigue affects Atletico

MADRID • Atletico Madrid's La Liga title challenge has been dealt a blow, after Sporting Gijon scored twice in the final 11 minutes to record a 2-1 win on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann's stunning first-half free kick put Atletico in front. However, they felt the after- effects of their efforts in seeing off PSV Eindhoven after extra time and penalties in the Champions League in mid-week, as Antonio Sanabria and Carlos Castro turned the game around in the final stages.

"We were always clear that the objective of the club is to be in the top three," said Atletico boss Diego Simeone.

"That is what we are working towards. This defeat goes against any aspiration to be champions."

Simeone named a youthful side with an average age of 23, as he made five changes from the team that started against PSV on Tuesday.

Atletico, eight points behind leaders Barcelona (75), have often felt they have been prejudiced by the scheduling of their La Liga fixtures around European games.

And Simeone hinted at his frustration at having to play early, while Barcelona and Real Madrid (63 points) were not in action until yesterday.

"I don't like to look for excuses. I'm happy that we are premium, we play at four o'clock and they see us in China," he added ironically.

Victory brought Sporting to within a point of survival, as Granada and Rayo Vallecano stayed just out of the drop zone with a 2-2 draw.

Malaga moved up to eighth with Ignacio Camacho's late winner in a 1-0 win at Betis.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'La Liga prospects fading as fatigue affects Atletico'. Print Edition | Subscribe