Luis Suarez scored the 500th goal of his professional career but Atletico Madrid had to rely on a late penalty save by Jan Oblak to beat Deportivo Alaves 1-0 and not have their position at LaLiga’s summit weakened further.
Diego Simeone’s men had won just two of their previous five league games before Sunday – form that has seen Real Madrid and Barcelona close the gap on them – and they looked destined to drop points yet again when Alaves were awarded a spot-kick in the closing stages.
But Oblak produced a wonderful save to deny Alaves a share of the spoils, sparking relieved celebrations among Atletico’s players and coaching staff.
The goalkeeper’s crucial stop ultimately meant Suarez’s 500th professional goal at club and international level, scored from a fine Kieran Trippier cross in the 54th minute, sealed three points to keep Atletico’s title push on track.
Atletico were convinced an early spot-kick was coming their way in the 12th minute when Jose Gimenez’s header struck the arm of Edgar Mendez, but referee Juan Martinez Munuera opted against awarding a penalty after watching a replay.
Alaves almost made the most of that let-off soon after as Pere Pons won possession and squared to Joselu on the edge of the box, only for Stefan Savic to nudge the subsequent shot just wide with a desperate lunge.
The hosts’ best opportunity fell to Suarez just before half-time, the Uruguayan gliding through a group of defenders and seeing his effort go agonisingly wide.
But he hit the mark early in the second half, meeting Trippier’s wonderful cross with a glancing header than went in off the post to reach his latest milestone.
That goal looked as though it was not going to be enough when the referee pointed to the spot in favour of Alaves after a review, Savic having caught Luis Rioja in the face with a flailing elbow.
But Oblak threw himself to his right to palm away Joselu’s penalty, providing Atletico with a huge boost in the title race.
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