Griezmann thrives as Atletico stays 8 points behind Barca

Barcelona's Suarez fights for the ball against Malaga's Ignasi Miquel during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Malaga and Barcelona in Malaga, Spain, Saturday, March 10, 2018. (AP Photo/M.Pozo)

MADRID — Antoine Griezmann is keeping alive Atletico Madrid's hopes of a Spanish league title challenge.

The France forward scored an impressive goal and helped set up two others as Atletico comfortably defeated Celta Vigo 3-0 on Sunday to keep pace with league leader Barcelona.

Victor "Vitolo" Machin and Angel Correa also scored for Atletico at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The team's 10th win in 11 matches in all competitions kept second-place Atletico eight points behind Barcelona with 10 matches left. The Catalan club beat last-place Malaga 2-0 on Saturday despite playing without Lionel Messi because of the birth of his third son, Ciro.

Atletico's only recent setback was a 1-0 loss at Barcelona in the previous round.

"There is still a lot of league left," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We are focusing on each match. I want to reach the final five rounds with chances. Then we will see what happens."

Griezmann has been decisive for Atletico. He scored his eighth goal in five matches after a neat move inside the area just before halftime. The Frenchman cleared two Celta players by faking a shot near the goal, then sent the ball into the top far corner to open the scoring at the Metropolitano.

Griezmann, who has previously been linked with a move to Barcelona or Manchester United, then set up Vitolo's goal with a well-placed throughball inside the area in the 56th, and he also started the play that led to Correa's final goal a few minutes later.

"The reality is that today Griezmann is with us and he has been playing fantastically," Simeone said. "Tomorrow is another day."

Real Madrid stayed in third place by defeating Eibar 2-1 on Saturday with a pair of goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, while fourth-place Valencia remained a point behind Madrid by winning 2-0 at Sevilla with two goals by striker Rodrigo.

Sevilla stayed fifth but 11 points behind Valencia in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Sevilla plays at Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday in the last-16 second leg. The teams drew 0-0 in Sevilla in the first leg.

Celta stayed ninth with the loss, its second in three matches.

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VILLARREAL WINS

Villarreal took a step toward securing a Europa League spot by defeating Las Palmas 2-0 with second-half goals by Carlos Bacca and Nicola Sansone.

The win moved Villarreal to sixth place, one point behind Sevilla and a point ahead of Girona.

The teams in fifth and sixth automatically qualify for the second-tiered European competition.

Las Palmas, winless in six matches, stayed in 18th place and is four points from safety.

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ESPANYOL RALLIES

Forward Gerard Moreno scored a 72nd-minute winner as Espanyol came from behind to defeat Real Sociedad 2-1 and extend its unbeaten streak to seven matches.

Willian Jose opened the scoring for the visitors just before halftime but Leo Baptistao equalized for Espanyol early in the second half.

Moreno got the winner off the rebound of his missed penalty kick, which was initially saved by former Atletico goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya.

The victory allowed Espanyol to overtake Sociedad for 13th place.

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GARCIA'S GOALS

Raul Garcia scored twice in the first 20 minutes to lead Athletic Bilbao to a 2-0 win over visiting Leganes, ending the team's three-match winless streak in all competitions.

Garcia scored in the 10th and 17th minutes at San Mames Stadium to move Athletic to 12th place.

Leganes dropped to 15th.

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More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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