La Liga wrap: Koke conjures Madrid magic
By Football News
Atletico Madrid have smashed Granada 5-0 to strengthen their grip on one of Spain's automatic UEFA Champions League qualifying spots.
Central midfielder Koke ran the show for Atletico Madrid on Sunday, setting up three goals for the home side, as they demolished 17th-placed Granada to stay 11 points clear in third.
Atletico Madrid would need to slip to fifth by the end of the season to completely miss out on the Champions League, as fourth position comes with a berth in next season's qualifying playoffs.
With seven rounds remaining in La Liga, the capital club's 15-point gap on fifth-placed Malaga looks formidable.
It took just over three minutes for the hosts to break open Granada's defence at the Estadio Vicente Calderon when Koke received a throw-in on the left-wing, cut inside and chipped a cross to Diego Costa, who headed the ball past Roberto in the visitors' goal.
Radamel Falcao doubled Atletico Madrid's in the 27th minute, tapping in Costa's cross but again it was Koke pulling the strings as he released the Brazilian striker in behind Granada's defence.
Having led 2-0 at half-time, it did not take the home side long to extend their lead further with Colombian striker Falcao completing a brace in the 47th minute, getting the decisive touch to Koke's free-kick.
Another free-kick from Atletico Madrid's 21-year-old Spanish midfielder set up their fourth goal as Raul Garcia scored just after the hour mark, while Adrian teed up Filipe Luis in the 70th minute to complete the big win.
Atletico Madrid moved to 65 points, maintaining their 11-point gap on fourth-placed Real Sociedad, who won 2-0 away to Rayo Vallecano thanks to a double from Imanol Agirretxe.
But Atletico Madrid were unable to draw level with their local rivals Real after the reigning champions defeated Athletic Bilbao 3-0 to rise to 68 points.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the second and 68th minutes at Bilbao's Estadio San Mames and Real's Portuguese attacker then set up Gonzalo Higuain in the 76th minute to wrap up the three points.
Meanwhile, La Liga-leaders Barcelona remain 13 points clear at the top of the standings after a 3-0 triumph away to Real Zaragoza.
Thiago Alcantara led the way for Barcelona, scoring the first goal before setting up the other two, which were both finished by Cristian Tello.