Atleti accept end to unbeaten Liga streak

Dec 22, 2017 - 11:47 PM Veteran forward Sergio Garcia has struck an 88th minute winner for Espanyol as they beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 to consign Diego Simeone's side to their first league defeat of the season.

Second-place Atletico, who stay six points behind leaders Barcelona after 17 games, struggled to create many chances of note in Cornella against their lowly opponents.

"You could see it coming, that the side which made the mistake would pay for it," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.

"Espanyol played a great match. We didn't make good on our chances, they did, and we were left wanting."

Atletico dominated the ball but the first good opening fell to Leo Baptistao, who chipped off target when through on Jan Oblak's goal.

Although both teams competed keenly there were few opportunities after that, bar substitute Kevin Gameiro firing straight at Diego Lopez when well placed with 14 minutes to go.

Then with two minutes remaining Espanyol broke with Esteban Granero finding Garcia, who fired into the bottom corner, leaving Oblak with no chance.

The 34-year-old's late intervention allowed Espanyol to celebrate their first win over Atletico in the top flight since October 2013, when they won by the same scoreline.

"Is it a step back, losing for the first time after 20 games?" Simeone asked.

"To lose after 20 games is always a step forward. I hope we don't lose again for another 20 games.

The win lifted Catalan side Espanyol to 14th, easing pressure on manager Quique Sanchez Flores, while denting Atletico's title bid ahead of Saturday's Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The defeat was Atletico's first since April 25 against Villarreal last season.

"I don't know if this will change our dynamic, but it will change our spirits," Sanchez Flores said.

"We were not the team we've been from previous weeks.

"We hope it can be a turning point.

"This will help the mentality of the lads, they seem so different in the dressing room. We were calm."

Earlier, Athletic Bilbao won 2-0 at 10-man Real Betis to go six games unbeaten in the league and leapfrog their opponents to go 11th.

Betis came out of the blocks flying but when Jordi Amat brought down Aymeric Laporte in the area he was sent off and Raul Garcia converted the penalty in the 35th minute.

Zouhair Feudal put through his own net in comical fashion with five minutes to go to secure Athletic's victory at the Benito Villamarin.

Source: AAP

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