MADRID (AP) — It took Álvaro Morata and his Atletico Madrid teammates more than three minutes to be able to celebrate the striker’s important winner against Girona in the Spanish league on Monday.
Morata’s goal early in second half stoppage time was confirmed only after a lengthy video review, but it finally counted to give Atletico the 1-0 win and sole possession of third place.
Atletico entered the match tied on points with Real Sociedad, which on Sunday was held at Mallorca to 1-1. Diego Simeone’s team was still eight points behind second-placed Real Madrid, and 17 behind league leader Barcelona.
Morata scored from close range after charging toward the far post following a corner kick cross by Antoine Griezmann from the right side. The ball was deflected inside the area before Morata could get to it near the goalline. The assistant raised the flag for offside but the goal eventually stood after being confirmed by the VAR.
Morata said his teammates were initially upset with him because it appeared the ball could have gone in even if he hadn’t touch it.
“To me it was clear, but if they didn’t confirm it I think I would have had to go back home on a bicycle,” Morata said. “They (my teammates) were mad at me because I touched it. But I didn’t know if it was going in or not. So just in case I had to finish the play. It was hard to see the ball there and not push it in.”
Morata scored twice in Atletico’s 6-1 rout of Sevilla in the previous round. Until then, he’d been scoreless in five straight games.
Atletico celebrated a sixth win in its last eight league games, with two draws. It next hosts relegation-threatened Valencia.
It was the second loss in a row for Girona, which stayed in 12th place, four points above the relegation zone. It next visits seventh-place Rayo Vallecano.
Girona’s 36-year-old Uruguayan striker Cristhian Stuani came off the bench in the second half to make his 200th appearance with the Catalan club.
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