Atlético Madrid held again on return to Spanish league

Atletico Madrid’s midfielder Marcos Llorente, right, up against Athletic Bilbao’s goalkeeper Unai Simon, left, and defender Inigo Martinez during the Spanish League football match. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2020

Atlético Madrid held again on return to Spanish league

  • The setback kept Diego Simeone’s team in sixth place, outside the Champions League spots

MADRID: Atlético Madrid’s struggles continued as their season resumed with a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday for their third straight draw in the Spanish league.

The setback kept Diego Simeone’s team in sixth place, outside the Champions League spots.

The goals at the empty San Mamés Stadium came a couple of minutes apart late in the first half, with Athletic's Iker Muniain scoring first and Atlético equalizing with a goal from Diego Costa.

It was the 13th league draw for Atlético, which have only two wins in their last nine league matches.

“We earned a draw at a tough place but we need to start winning three points if we want to stay in contention to qualify for the Champions League," Atlético midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurrección said. "It will be difficult if we don't start winning matches.”

The league resumed Thursday after more than three months since being interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Leader Barcelona opened with a 4-0 rout at Mallorca on Saturday, while second-place Real Madrid host  Eibar later Sunday.

Atlético’s last match before the break had been an away victory against Liverpool that eliminated the titleholders in the Champions League round of 16. But Atlético had drawn their last two league matches — against Sevilla and Espanyol — to drop in the standings and remain far from the leaders. They  trail  Barcelona by 15 points with 10 rounds left.

Atlético have the same 46 points as fifth-place Getafe and fourth-place Real Sociedad. Getafe lost at Granada on Friday, while Sociedad host  Osasuna later Sunday.

Athletic, which had won two in a row before the break, stayed in 10th place.

Muniain opened the scoring for the hosts from inside the area in the 37th minute but Costa equalized two minutes later after a well-placed throughball by “Koke.”

It was the first goal for Costa since a league game last October. During the celebration, he held the jersey of Atlético women’s team player Virginia Torrecilla, who is recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Atlético defender Santiago Arias had a chance for the winner in the 80th but his close-range shot was saved by Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simón.

Simeone made all five substitutions that are now being allowed for teams, while Athletic’s Gaizka Garitano made four. It was Athletic’s first game since striker Aritz Aduriz announced his retirement. The 39-year-old Aduriz decided not to come back once the season resumed after doctors said he would need a hip replacement.


Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

Updated 23 September 2020

Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

  • The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99

ORLANDO: Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in game three to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3min 53sec left on the clock in Orlando.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumpshot to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — who had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in game two on Sunday — were determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive ... but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my team-mates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early, we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”