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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Joao Felix returns from injury with a goal as Atletico goes 3rd

Atletico's 3-1 comeback win over Villarreal lifted the team into third place in the Spanish league. The top four play in Europe's top club competition next season.

By: AP | Barcelona | Published: February 24, 2020 11:12:09 am
The goal was Felix’s fifth of the season and his first since scoring in a 2-0 win over Lokomotiv in the Champions League in December. (Twitter/AtleticoMadrid)

Substitute Joao Felix returned from injury and scored his first goal in more than two months to help Atletico Madrid get back in the fight for a Champions League berth on Sunday.

Atletico’s 3-1 comeback win over Villarreal lifted the team into third place in the Spanish league. The top four play in Europe’s top club competition next season.

Atletico is level on points with fourth-place Sevilla, which leapfrogged Getafe by dealing the season’s surprise team a stinging 3-0 home defeat.

Felix had missed four matches while recovering from a right-leg muscle injury.

He went on in the 57th with Atletico leading 2-1. Felix put the result beyond doubt with a powerful left-footed strike in the 74th, after Atletico’s pressure recovered the ball near the area.

The positive performance by Felix comes with Atletico flying high after it beat Liverpool 1-0 in their opening leg in the Champions League’s round of 16 on Tuesday.

“The victory against Liverpool has given us a lot of confidence to take on what is left in store this season,” goalscorer Angel Correa said.

Felix joined the Spanish team from Benfica in the summer on a club record transfer of 126 million euros (then $143 million). But after a promising start, the 20-year-old Felix had struggled to make his presence felt in attack.

The goal was Felix’s fifth of the season and his first since scoring in a 2-0 win over Lokomotiv in the Champions League in December.

Paco Alcacer opened for Villarreal in the 16th. Correa leveled in the 40th before he assisted Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion to head the hosts in front in the 64th.

Atletico defender Kieran Trippier also returned from injury as a second-half substitute.

Atletico and Sevilla are 12 points behind leader Barcelona, which is two points ahead of Real Madrid before the title rivals meet next weekend.

“Felix had a good return,” said Atletico manager Diego Simeone, who watched the match from a stadium box at the Wanda Metropolitano as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards for protesting.

“We saw it yesterday in practice. He showed signs of being stronger, more confident, and more incisive. We are happy he is back, we need all the competition on the squad we can get.”

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