(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Atletico Madrid beat La Liga strugglers Deportivo La Coruna 1-0 at home on Sunday without starting first choice strikers Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann, cutting the deficit behind leaders Barcelona down to nine points.
French forward Kevin Gameiro scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 34th minute in a generally underwhelming display against relegation-threatened Deportivo. The spot kick was awarded after Pedro Mosquera tugged the shirt of midfielder Saul Niguez in the area.
Valencia tightened their hold on the fourth Champions League spot by winning 1-0 at Leganes and opening up a 15-point lead over fifth-placed Villarreal, who lost 1-0 at basement club Malaga as the Andalusians won a first Liga game since Dec. 10.
Gameiro started on his own in attack for Atletico as top scorer Griezmann was suspended and Costa was recovering from muscle discomfort, although the Spain international came on in the second half, replacing 19-year-old debutant Carlos Isaac.
Deportivo have still not managed to win in 2018 but created the better of the chances against Diego Simeone's side.
They could have taken the lead early on when forward Lucas Perez burst into the box with only Jan Oblak to beat but shot straight at the goalkeeper. Later in the half he was again thwarted by the Slovenian with a headed attempt.
Mosquera wasted a great chance shortly before halftime when the ball fell to his feet at the back post but he sent it flying over the bar. In the second half, Atletico defender Lucas Hernandez made a perfectly timed challenge to swipe the ball from the feet of Perez as he was racing towards goal.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone admitted his side had underperformed. "It's always difficult after an international break so close to a World Cup and on top of that we had players suspended and injured and we responded by getting a result," Simeone told a news conference.
"Our first half was better than the second, we scored and could have taken more of our chances, but we were up against a side fighting for their lives and we couldn't finish the game off."
Simeone's side are second in the Liga standings on 67 points after 30 games.
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