Griezmann inspires Atletico Madrid to victory over Levante


Antoine Griezmann scored a brace as Atletico Madrid got off to a fine start in 2015 with a 3-1 win at home to Levante. The Frenchman had hit a hat-trick at Athletic Bilbao just before the winter break and scored two headers either side of half-time to put the champions in command at the Vicente Calderon. Substitute Nabil El Zhar gave the visitors brief hope of getting back into the game with a close-range effort just after the hour mark but Diego Godin scored Atletico's third header of the afternoon to ensure the three points remained in the capital and keep the pressure on title rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, who play on Sunday. Returning local hero Fernando Torres was in the Calderon after securing a loan move from AC Milan but had to watch from the stands as he is not permitted to play for Atletico until the Italian transfer window opens on Monday. The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker is expected to make his second debut for the club in Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarter final tie with local rivals Real Madrid. Instead, it was another blonde-headed forward who lead Atletico's attack. Eighteen minutes were on the clock when left-back Guilherme Siquiera charged down the left wing and sent in a high cross for Griezmann to leap above the line of Levante defenders and nod over goalkeeper Diego Marino into the net. Atletico were well worthy of their lead – Arda Turan had earlier had a goal ruled out for offside and Mario Mandzukic had headed just wide. Diego Simeone's side continued to dominate in what remained of the first half but could not get a second, although Mandzukic and Juanfran both came close. Atletico did get the all important second goal right at the start of the second period. Juanfran crossed for Mandzukic to head towards the far bottom corner but Marino clawed the ball away just as it was about to cross the line. However, Levante failed to clear and the ball bounced up perfectly for Griezmann to head across the line from six yards out. Atletico nearly added a third 10 minutes into the second half. Again Juanfran found space down the right and swung in a cross towards the back post, before Mandzukic and Griezmann combined to tee up Tiago, but his shot struck the outside of the near post. With half an hour remaining Levante forged a way back into the game. Victor Casadesus headed a corner towards goal but it was scraped off the line by Mandzukic. However, Atletico had failed to readjust when Ivan Lopez sent the ball back into the box and substitute El Zhar stuck out a foot to divert it into the bottom corner. The visitors then had Atletico on the back foot for a 20-minute spell but could struggled to break them down, and with eight minutes remaining Godin put the result beyond doubt. Tiago collected a short corner and swung the ball into the area for the Uruguayan defender to head home.