Atletico Madrid 2-1 Espanyol: Carrasco penalty boosts Champions League hopes
Yannick Carrasco scored twice, including a stoppage-time penalty, as Atletico Madrid boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.
Diego Simeone's side succumbed 1-0 to Real Mallorca last weekend and were eliminated in Europe by Manchester City on Wednesday, before struggling again at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Atletico had to wait until the 52nd minute for substitute Carrasco to strike with their first shot on target, before Raul de Tomas levelled with a free-kick following Geoffrey Kondogbia's dismissal.
However, a late handball decision against De Tomas offered Atletico a penalty, which Carrasco converted in the 10th added minute to send Simeone's side level on points, at least briefly, with Sevilla and Barcelona, and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.
Atletico had defeated Espanyol in seven of their last nine home league games, but it was Vicente Moreno's visitors who started the brighter.
Leandro Cabrera's header from Darder's corner forced a sharp Jan Oblak stop just seven minutes in, while Joao Felix skewed over on the counter-attack at the other end.
Simeone responded by sending on Antoine Griezmann, Matheus Cunha and Carrasco at half-time and Atletico's fortunes soon changed.
Oblak reacted quickly to deny Darder and that save proved vital a minute later when Cunha and Carrasco combined on a clinical break.
Cunha raced towards the Espanyol goal before laying an inch-perfect pass for Carrasco to cut in and squeeze a right-footed strike under Diego Lopez to open the scoring.
Oblak then thwarted a low De Tomas volley but, after Kondogbia was shown a second yellow for handball, the Espanyol striker's resulting free-kick squirmed under the Atletico goalkeeper.
Carrasco snatched victory after De Tomas was adjudged to have handled an Atleti corner, allowing the home forward to fire into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards.
What does it mean? Shot-shy Atleti leave it late
Simeone's team have failed to score in the first half in their last four games in all competitions, having had just one shot on target in these first four halves.
Indeed, the hosts mustered an expected goals (xG) total of just 0.34 in the first half on Sunday. The substitutions delivered the impact sought by Simeone, who completed his third league double over Espanyol as Atletico boss.
Now, Champions League qualification is firmly in the hands of Atletico, who have collected more points than any other LaLiga side this season with goals in the 90th minute or later (10 points).
Classy Carrasco and Cunha
Carrasco will take the plaudits for his match-winning double, but the influence of Cunha should not go under the radar.
The former Hertha Berlin star has been directly involved in seven league goals as a substitute this season, scoring four and assisting three – more than any other LaLiga player.
Thomas Lemar was hauled off at the interval along with the injured Joao Felix and Sime Vrsaljko, but the midfielder's performance may have disappointed Simeone the most.
The France international gave away possession 13 times, a game-leading figure at the time of his removal, and did not win any of his five duels, while completing just 13 passes.
Atletico host Granada in the league on Wednesday, while Espanyol are at home to Rayo Vallecano the following day.