MADRID (AFP) - La Liga champions Atletico Madrid remained in the race to retain their title with a comfortable 3-1 win over Levante on Saturday thanks to two goals from Antoine Griezmann.
With Fernando Torres looking on from the stands before his move back to his boyhood club is concluded on Monday, Griezmann was under pressure to continue his fine form after scoring a hat-trick as Atletico closed 2014 with a 4-1 win away to Athletic Bilbao two weeks ago.
And he duly obliged with two headed finishes from close range early in each half before Diego Godin nodded in Atletico's third after Nabil El Zhar's deflected effort had given Levante hope.
Atletico are now level with Barcelona in second place and one point behind leaders Real Madrid, with the latter two sides in action against Real Sociedad and Valencia respectively on Sunday.
Torres was the star attraction before kick-off as he took his seat in the directors' box to much acclaim.
However, on the field, Griezmann ensured Los Rojiblancos' former captain will find it hard to get into the side for the visit of Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
The French international had a goalbound shot blocked by Loukas Vyntra and Mario Mandzukic headed just wide as the hosts began brightly.
Diego Simeone's men were finally rewarded on 18 minutes when Guilherme Siqueira's cross from the left looped into Griezmann's path and he nodded past the helpless Diego Marino.
Atletico should have extended their lead before half-time as Arda Turan fired just over, Mandzukic saw a goal ruled out for handball and Marino then made a fine save to deny the Croatian from point-blank range.
Yet, they looked to have made the game safe just 60 seconds into the second period as despite more heroics from Marino to claw a Mandzukic header off the line, he couldn't react in time to prevent Griezmann's follow-up effort crossing the line.
The unlucky Mandzukic saw another header drift wide and Tiago's deflected shot flew into the side-netting as Atletico continued to dominate.
However, they were stunned just after the hour mark when Levante halved the deficit.
Mandzukic was again heavily involved again as he did brilliantly to turn Victor Casadesus's header off his own line, but the ball fell to Ivan Lopez and his drive clipped El Zhar on its way into the far corner.
Simeone then withdrew Turan and Mandzukic with one eye to Wednesday's repeat of last seasons' Champions League final against Real.
And, not for the first time this season, the Argentine's side needed to rely on their threat from set-pieces to seal the three points eight minutes from time when Godin headed home Tiago's in-swinging cross.