Griezmann halts Real’s title charge

Griezmann halts Real’s title charge

Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring a goal against Real Madrid during their Spanish league match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid Saturday. — Reuters

MADRID — Antoine Griezmann’s classy finish five minutes from time dealt Real Madrid’s La Liga title chances a huge blow as Atletico Madrid rescued a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.


Pepe’s towering header early in the second half looked to have Madrid heading five points clear at the top.


However, Barcelona now has a third straight title back in its own hands after Griezmann rounded Keylor Navas to slot home at the near post.


Real leads Barcelona by three points with eight games left, but the two face each other at the Bernabeu on April 23.


Barca can move top later Saturday with victory at Malaga.


Atletico had won its three previous league visits to the Bernabeu and enjoyed the brighter start as Saul Niguez was inches away from opening the scoring inside five minutes when his header from Koke’s cross flew just wide.


Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick separated the sides in a 3-0 Real win earlier this season and the World Player of the Year was first to threaten for the host as his near post drive was beaten away by Jan Oblak.


Griezmann hit the post at the other end but had already been flagged offside as Atletico maintained a threat on the counter-attack.


However, Real took control of the game as the first half wore on and only two stunning stops prevented Zinedine Zidane’s men from taking a half-time lead.


Firstly, Oblak tipped over Karim Benzema’s effort after a neat one-two with Ronaldo had freed the Frenchman inside the box.


Moments later Ronaldo couldn’t believe his eyes when his fierce goal-bound effort was turned to safety by Stefan Savic’s incredible headed clearance from under his own crossbar.


Griezmann was nearly gifted the opener just before half-time as he intercepted Sergio Ramos’s wayward crossfield pass and bore down on goal.


But Griezmann narrowed his own angle by verging left onto his favored foot and his low effort was turned behind by Keylor Navas.


Real started the second half with intent as Ronaldo headed just wide before Oblak had to rush from his goal to block Benzema’s volley from point-blank range.


The European champion finally made the breakthrough just seven minutes into the second period when Pepe rose highest in a crowded penalty area from Toni Kroos’s freekick to power a header into the far corner.


However, Atletico responded to falling behind and should have been level on the hour mark when Yannick Carrasco played in Fernando Torres clear on goal.


The former Spanish international failed to finish, though, as he fired straight at the onrushing Navas.


Navas has faced a barrage of criticsm this season, but he made another smart stop to deny Griezmann leveling with an outrageous overhead kick attempt.

The French international wasn’t to be denied from another excellent through ball from Carrasco with five minutes remaining, however, as he coolly fired past the advancing Navas at the near post for his 23rd goal of the season.


In the other match of the day, Espanyol defeated Alaves 1-0. — AFP