Kevin Gameiro came off the bench to score one goal and make another for Diego Costa as Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in La Liga on Sunday.
It was another clinical performance from Diego Simeone’s side, who have now recorded four consecutive league victories, all without their mean defence conceding a goal.
They remain second, seven points behind unbeaten league leaders Barcelona, who won 2-0 at Eibar on Saturday ahead of their Champions League last 16, first leg away to Chelsea.
Former Chelsea striker Costa returned for Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano after injury prevented him from taking part in their 4-1 Europa League win over FC Copenhagen in Denmark on Thursday.
Atletico created little in the first half to get the crowd of just over 60,000 out of their seats. However, they livened up after the restart, and in particular after Gameiro was sent on for Koke just before the hour mark.
It was Atletico’s French connection that led to the opening goal midway through the second half, with Antoine Griezmann setting up Gameiro, who took a touch before firing low past Kepa Arrizabalaga and into the far corner for his fifth league goal of the season.
Gameiro then turned provider with a fine through ball for Costa, who fired home to secure the points with 10 minutes remaining, the goal his second in La Liga since returning to Spain.
“We are not stopping, we are playing well at the moment, and we are enjoying ourselves,” said Gameiro when asked about his team’s pursuit of Barcelona at the top of the table.
Atletico, who have conceded a paltry nine goals in 24 La Liga games this season, will hope to stay within striking distance of Barcelona before going to the Camp Nou in a fortnight.
Simeone’s side are also nine points clear of third-placed Valencia, who came from behind to win 2-1 at bottom club Malaga on Saturday. Real Madrid, in fourth, are at Betis on Sunday evening.
Earlier on Sunday, Real Sociedad beat struggling Levante 3-0 at Anoeta.