Rodrigo de Paul boosted Atletico Madrid’s Champions League hopes, netting a second half winner as the below-par hosts beat Cadiz 2-1.
Diego Simeone’s men established an early lead through Joao Felix, but Alvaro Negredo headed home a fine leveller at the end of a scrappy first half.
Despite the relegation-threatened visitors enjoying the better of the play for long periods, De Paul fired home a second-half winner to send Simeone’s men third in LaLiga, with Javi Serrano’s late red card not significantly impacting Atleti.
Cadiz gifted their hosts the opening goal just three minutes in when goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma passed straight to Joao Felix, leaving the Portuguese to finish neatly from a tight angle.
Alfonso Espino and Negredo both volleyed narrowly wide as Cadiz looked to respond in a feisty first period, which threatened to boil over when Atletico defender Reinildo threw himself into a two-footed challenge and was shown a straight red card just before half-time.
Referee Pablo Fuertes then contentiously overturned the decision after a rapid VAR review, much to the visitors’ fury.
But Cadiz ended the first half on a high, levelling through Negredo’s well-placed header after a sublime left-wing cross from captain Espino.
Against the run of play, the hosts re-established their lead 22 minutes from time – De Paul firing home the rebound after Ledesma parried substitute Angel Correa’s fierce strike.
Jose Gimenez made a remarkable goal-line clearance from Luis Hernandez soon after and Atletico were then put in a difficult spot when Serrano was dismissed for a forceful challenge just five minutes after coming on, but the hosts clung on for three vital points in their bid for Champions League football.