Atletico Madrid moved into fourth in the La Liga table after beating Real Betis 3-1 in a frenetic contest at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Cristian Tello cancelled out Joao Felix’s second minute strike just before half-time, but the 22-year-old forward struck again just past the hour mark before substitute Thomas Lemar scored with ten minutes to go to give Atletico an important victory.
It is a fine result for Atletico who leapfrog their Seville-based opponents into the fourth Champions League place on 48 points.
For Manuel Pellegrini’s side, it is los verdiblancos’ second league defeat in a row which sees them drop down into fifth on 46 points and out of the top four for the first time in three months.
Just 74 seconds into the match and Felix fired the visitors in front. Angel Correa picked the ball up inside the Betis box and squared across the goalmouth for Felix to slot into the bottom corner.
It was a dream start for Atletico and the visitors could have doubled their lead in the 35th minute when Yannick Carrasco closed in on goal, but instead of slotting past Claudio Bravo he elected to pass to Felix, allowing right-back Youssouf Sabaly to make a vital interception.
Paul Akouokou almost unintentionally scored a Betis equaliser in the 40th minute when Jose Gimenez’s clearance deflected off him and over the bar from point-blank range. But the hosts did get the leveller they deserved in a fiery, scrappy match on the stroke of half-time.
In the fifth minute of first half injury-time, MLS-bound Hector Herrera was intercepted by Sabaly on the edge of his own box. The ball popped straight out to substitute Tello who curled his strike first-time into the corner beyond the reach of Jan Oblak.
Oblak was called into action early in the second half with two quickfire saves to deny Tello’s placed shot looking for the bottom corner and a Joaquin corner which looked destined to go straight into the net.
And Atletico retook the lead in the 61st minute. Marcos Llorente showed remarkable place down the right flank and squared across for Felix to tap in his third goal in his last three matches.
Betis continued to push for an equaliser, but it was Atletico who threatened again. Felix was denied a hat-trick as his low powerful shot was well saved by Claudio Bravo in the 72nd minute.
And Lemar ensured the victory was complete in the 80th minute, sidefooting into the net inside the Betis box after a fine run and pass from the right flank by Antoine Griezmann.
TALKING POINT – A CLASSIC ATLETICO PERFORMANCE
Atletico had only 35 per cent possession but were still able to secure a convincing victory in front of a hostile atmosphere in Seville, getting themselves firmly back into top four contention.
Diego Simeone would have been delighted with his side’s defensive performance as Betis were only able to convert one of their 18 attempts on goal.
MAN OF THE MATCH – JOAO FELIX
Felix is beginning to look like the player Atletico paid €126m for in July 2019 with his fifth goal of the season.
The 22-year-old was unfortunate not to get a hat-trick, but it was evident his overall goal threat, and ability to bring other team-mates into the game, is why Griezmann and talisman Luis Suarez are unable to get into Simeone’s starting XI at the moment.
Real Betis: Bravo (7), Sabaly (7), Bartra (6), Ruiz (6), Guardado (N/A), Carvalho (7), Akouokou (6), Joaquin (7), Ruibal (6), Fekir (6), Iglesias (6)
Subs: Tello (6), Rodriguez (6), Juanmi (6), Willian Jose (5)
Atletico Madrid: Oblak (7), Vrsaljko (6), Gimenez (6), Felipe (7), Reinildo (6), Lodi (6), Herrera (5), De Paul (6), Llorente (6), Correa (6), Felix (8)
Subs: Carrasco (6), Lemar (6), Serrano (N/A), Suarez (N/A)
2′ – GOAL! FELIX PUTS ATLETICO IN FRONT! It’s an incredible start for Atletico who score after 74 seconds! Correa picks the ball up in the box and squares across the goalmouth for Felix to slot first time into the bottom corner to give Atletico an early lead! The Betis players say Ruibal was fouled before he got dispossessed for the goal and it stands!
40′ – HOW DID THAT NOT GO IN!! A drilled cross into the corridor of uncertainty from Tello is hacked clear by Gimenez and slams into Paul before looping over the bar from point-blank range! That could have gone anywhere, but unfortunately for Paul it was not the back of the net! The Ivorian could not have done any more there.
45+5′ – GOAL! TELLO EQUALISES FOR BETIS! It’s a deserved equaliser for Betis! Herrera is intercepted by Sabaly just outside the Atletico box and the ball comes out to Tello who curls it first-time beyond the reach of Oblak into the bottom corner!
50′ – OBLAK DENIES TELLO AND JOAQUIN! Tello surges into the Atletico box and looks to slot his shot into the bottom corner, but Oblak is able to get down to it and parry behind for a corner! It’s a fine stop from the Slovenian! The following corner swung in by Joaquin is then stopped by Oblak again at the near post! That was heading in!
61′ – GOAL! ATLETICO TAKE THE LEAD THROUGH FELIX! Felix gets his second goal of the game to put the visitors back in front! It’s all about Llorente here. He sprints down the right flank and gets the better of Ruibal and Ruiz before squaring for Felix to tap into the net! It’s three goals in three games for the Portugal international.
80′ – GOAL! LEMAR EXTENDS ATLETICO’S LEAD! It’s surely game over! Griezmann on the right flank beats Ruiz and cuts it back for Lemar who sidefoots it from the penalty spot beyond the reach of Bravo into the net.