Atletico Madrid closed the gap to Barcelona at the top of La Liga to nine points and regained their four-point advantage over Real Madrid on Sunday evening with a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.
Kevin Gameiro netted the only goal of the contest from the penalty spot against the relegation-threatened visitors, who despite lacking in quality, showed they could have had enough to escape the drop had they asserted themselves in a similar vein each week.
The result keeps the title race alive, just, but maybe more importantly means that ahead of next weekend’s Madrid derby, should Los Blancos reign supreme at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Atleti will still hold second place.
An almost training-like display filled the early stages inside the bouncing Wanda Metropolitano, with the hosts enjoying the majority of possession within the opposition half; however, struggled to break Clarence Seedorf’s limited side down and being reduced to long-range efforts.
But despite the capital side’s control of the game, the first meaningful stop of the contest was made by Jan Oblak, as Lucas Perez took advantage of Atleti’s poor defending to find himself one-on-one with the Slovenian; only for the 25-year-old to spread himself well and deny the on-loan Arsenal man’s attempt.
Following his first sighter, the confidence-strapped 29-year-old had the opportunity to test Atletico Madrid’s shot-stopper for the second time in quick succession with a header from inside the area, but, again, the goalkeeper was equal to the effort.
But all of Depor’s hard work at both ends of the pitch was quickly undone shortly after the half-hour mark as the usually reliable Pedro Mosquera was adjudged to have hauled Saul Niguez down inside the area; allowing Gameiro to blast home from 12 yards to give Diego Simeone’s outfit the advantage.
However, six minutes before the interval, the defensive midfielder who was at fault for conceding the spot-kick had a glorious opportunity to even things up for his boyhood club after Oblak strayed from his line but failed to claim the ball during a corner.
But the 29-year-old epitomised the former LaLiga winners’ troubles this season and failed to take advantage of the open goal from a tight angle; putting his headed attempt wide of the right-hand upright.
As the final minutes of the first half ticked by, Depor continued to attempt to find a way back into the contest but headed into the break trailing with Atleti remaining reasonably comfortable.
Following the break, the visitors continued to pour everything into their performance, but despite their best efforts simply lacked the quality to cause any significant damage to Atleti, who continued to meander along at a fairly pedestrian pace.
But Simeone’s men’s slow start to the second-half was almost punished 20 minutes from time as substitute Borja Valle Balonga found himself through on goal, only for Lucas Hernandez to somehow quash the danger with a stunning last-ditch tackle to retain the Spanish capital outfit’s advantage and maintain their immense recent defensive home form.
And Atletico Madrid managed to stretch their Wanda Metropolitano league clean sheet run to six consecutive matches – 580 minutes in total – as although Depor continued to hunt for their equaliser, they set a new unwanted club record of 15 games without a win and remain eight points away from safety.