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Five-star Atletico close gap on Barca

Atletico de Madrid's Spanish striker Fernando Torres (R) chats with teammate, French Antoine Griezmann, during their Spanish Primera Division soccer match played against Real Betis at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, 02 April 2016. EPA/Kiko Huesca

Atletico de Madrid’s Spanish striker Fernando Torres (R) chats with teammate, French Antoine Griezmann, during their Spanish Primera Division soccer match played against Real Betis at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, 02 April 2016. EPA/Kiko Huesca

MADRID, April 2 – Antoine Griezmann struck twice as Atletico Madrid moved to within six points of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a comprehensive 5-1 win over Real Betis on Saturday.

Barca host Real Madrid in what is set to be an emotional Clasico later as the Catalan giants pay homage to legendary former player and coach Johan Cruyff, who died last week at the age of 68.

Atletico and Barca also meet at the Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday and Diego Simeone’s men will travel with plenty of confidence after one of their most complete performances of the season.

Fernando Torres opened the scoring with a lovely dinked finish reminiscent of his winner for Spain in the Euro 2008 final over Germany after racing onto Koke’s fine through ball nine minutes before half-time.

Griezmann doubled Atletico’s advantage five minutes later thanks to a huge error from Betis ‘keeper Antonio Adan as the French international’s scooped pass into Koke’s path slipped through his legs and rolled into the net.

Adan made amends with great saves from Torres and Griezmann as Atletico threatened to run riot before the break.

Right-back Juanfran was Atletico’s hero with the winning penalty in a marathon shootout against PSV Eindhoven to reach the last eight of the Champions League last month.

And the Spanish international netted his first goal from open play for nearly three years when he slammed home Angel Correa’s fine cross just after the hour mark.

Jan Oblak looked well on course to register a 20th clean sheet in 31 Liga games this season, but a rare slip from the Slovenian goalkeeper presented the ball at Ruben Castro’s feet to slam home his 16th goal of the season and reduce Betis’ deficit.

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Yet, Atletico took just three minutes to restore their three-goal lead as more great and unselfish work from Correa teed up Griezmann to fire home his 26th goal of the season despite Adan’s best efforts.

And Griezmann turned provider in stoppage time when he squared for substitute Thomas Partey to round off the scoring.

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