Villarreal 0 Atletico Madrid 1: Fernando Torres scores only goal
Last Updated: 30/04/15 12:05am
Fernando Torres ensured Atletico Madrid retain an outside chance of defending their Primera Division title by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Villarreal.
The striker, back at his boyhood club on loan from AC Milan, came off the bench to fire an impressive winner in the 73rd minute at El Madrigal, in the process boosting Atleti to within nine points of leaders Barcelona with four games remaining. Second-placed Real Madrid are seven points away.
Diego Simeone's men are now unbeaten in 11 games while Villarreal remain in sixth place despite failing to win any of their last eight matches.
The first half was played at such a frantic pace that it came as some surprise no goal was scored before half-time.
Inside 60 seconds Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak was sprawling to deny Joel Campbell and Joao Miranda had to think fast to take the ball off the Costa Rican's feet as he came sniffing a few minutes later.
Atleti responded, Antoine Griezmann threatening to clip the ball between Villarreal keeper Sergio Asenjo and the near post but missing the mark.
Arda Turan helped maintain the pressure on the hosts by bursting into the area and blasting wide but Atleti were soon racing back to defend in numbers.
Oblak made a fantastic double save as the ball pinged around his six-yard box and Gerard's follow-up effort was only kept from crossing the line by a desperate clearance from Diego Godin.
Juanfran rifled the ball over the bar in the 39th minute and the half-time whistle provided some welcome respite for both sides.
Tomas Pina took aim from the edge of the box when play resumed, narrowly shooting wide with his left boot and substitute Saul Niguez soon fired back for Madrid, his attempt off the same foot fizzing past the target just after the hour.
Niguez had entered the fray at the same time as another Atletico favourite, and it would fall to that returning hero to open the scoring in the 74th minute.
Torres rolled back the years to press Villarreal out of possession before skipping past two defenders and beating Asenjo with a cold-blooded finish.
The hosts' keeper did deny Atletico a quickfire second goal when Griezmann let loose with a powerful drive on the run, but the capital club had done enough.