Atletico Madrid’s French forward Antoine Griezmann (L) celebrates a goal with teammates during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Valencia CF at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on March 5, 2017.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
A smiling Fernando Torres watched just four days on from a sickening blow to the head as Antoine Griezmann struck twice in Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Valencia on Sunday.
Torres, a lifelong Atletico fan, was knocked unconscious during his side’s 1-1 draw at Deportivo la Coruna on Thursday and spent the night in hospital, although thankfully suffered no serious injury.
He was serenaded with a banner reading “the Calderon loves you” before kick-off and was soon on his feet in celebration as Griezmann finished off a fine team move after just 10 minutes.
Kevin Gameiro’s deflected effort doubled Atletico’s lead three minutes into the second-half before Griezmann completed the scoring seven minutes from time. Victory moved Atletico back a point clear of Real Sociedad and into fourth in La Liga.
Torres is in his second spell at the Vicente Calderon after coming through the club’s academy to captain Atletico before leaving for Liverpool in 2007. He remains firmly a fans’ favourite and was the centre of attention as he took his seat in the directors box ahead of the game.
However, on the field, it was Atletico’s other star man who put the hosts on course for a much-needed win in their quest for Champions League football next season.
Griezmann’s wonder strike to secure a point at Deportivo had been overshadowed by Torres’s clash. But he produced another arrowing finish into the far corner from Koke’s through ball to open the scoring.
Valencia showed little sign of their recent revival to climb clear of the relegation zone, but Simone Zaza did momentarily threaten an equaliser when he flashed a header just wide.
Atletico got the second goal their dominance deserved early in the second period when Gameiro’s driven effort clipped Eliaquim Mangala to leave Diego Alves helpless.
Alves made a great save moments later to deny Griezmann as the French international was played clean through.
Griezmann was unlucky when his lovely attempted chip into the far corner flew just past the post 20 minutes from time. However, he made amends when he stabbed home Nico Gaitan’s pass for his 20th goal of the season.
Earlier, Deportivo eased their relegation fears with a vital 1-0 win at Sporting Gijon. Pedro Mosquera scored the only goal as Deportivo moved four points clear of the bottom three, whilst Sporting are now six points off safety in 19th.