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Atlético extends Liga lead after Real Madrid draws at Elche

Luis Suárez led Atlético Madrid to a 1-0 victory over Getafe in the 500th game for coach Diego Simeone, extending its Spanish league lead after Real Madrid drew 1-1 at Elche on Wednesday.

The Uruguay striker used a powerful and precise header to send Yannick Carrasco’s lob from a free kick into the lower corner of Getafe’s net in the 20th minute. It was Suárez’s eighth goal in the league this season since leaving Barcelona for one of its top rivals.

Atlético’s third win in a row left it two points above Madrid, which saw its five-game league winning streak end at Elche. Atlético also has two games in hand on Madrid.

Elche's Gonzalo Verdu, foreground, runs past Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

Simeone has transformed Atlético into one of the top teams in Europe since the former player returned to the club to become its coach nine years ago. He has guided it to two Europa League titles, one Spanish league, one Copa del Rey, along with two Champions League final appearances.

“We have always gone forward game by game since the day I arrived so we can focus on the present,” Simeone said. “I always wanted to come back and help the club grow.”

Atlético midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurrección has been with Simeone from the start.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, right, controls the ball in front of Elche's Josema during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

“It’s incredible for a coach to have been at one place for so long,” said Koke. “He has given so much stability to the club. I hope that he has 500 more to go.”

MADRID SLIPS

Madrid looked ready to romp early in the match at promoted Elche.

Real Madrid's Luka Modric, center, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

Marcelo had already hit the crossbar before Luka Modric put the defending champions ahead in the 20th. Elche goalkeeper Édgar Badía did well to push a blistering strike by Marco Asensio onto his bar, only for the rebound to fall to Modric to head in.

Madrid, however, failed to capitalize on its superior play for the rest of the first half, and a penalty plus some great saves by Badía ended up costing Zinedine Zidane’s side two points.

Dani Carvajal gave away the penalty when he clung to Antonio Barragán’s shirt in the area, sending Fidel Chaves to the spot to beat Thibaut Courtois and equalize in the 52nd.

Real Madrid's Marco Asensio controls the ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

Lucas Boye almost put Elche ahead when he grazed the upright in the 63rd. Madrid then pressed for the winner, but Badía denied Carvajal and smothered Sergio Ramos’ effort from close range.

Eden Hazard came on late as a Madrid substitute for his first action after a month sidelined with his latest injury.

NO TRIPPIER

Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

Atlético was without England defender Kieran Trippier, who missed his first match due to his 10-week suspension by the English Football Association for breaking betting rules.

The alleged misconduct, denied by Trippier, happened in July 2019 — the month the England international left Tottenham for Atletico — and was linked to information about his transfer being used for betting.

“I find it unfair that Atlético Madrid is harmed and the English federation, which made the decision, is benefited,” Simeone said about the suspension. “We will speak with Trippier in the coming days and we hope that his ban can be reduced.”

Real Madrid's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois stops the ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

Sime Vrsaljko took Trippier’s place as right wingback after returning from a long injury layoff following knee surgery.

ASPAS AGAIN

Iago Aspas scored his competition-leading ninth goal of the season to double Celta Vigo’s lead in a 2-1 win over last-place Huesca.

Real Madrid's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Elche's Lucas Boye, center, jump for the ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche CF at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium in Elche, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoJose Breton)

Celta has won five and drawn one since the arrival of coach Eduardo Coudet in late November, lifting it from the relegation zone into eighth place.

THREE RED CARDS

Jorge Molina scored with two minutes remaining to give Granada a 2-1 win over Valencia in a match that included the sending off of three players.

Valencia lost Jason Remeseiro to his second yellow card in the 70th and Gonçalo Guedes to a direct red three minutes later. Granada’s Domingos Duarte also got a straight red in the 76th.

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