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Atletico rally to down Bilbao

Atletico rally to down Bilbao
France’s Antoine Griezmann scored a hat-trick as Atletico Madrid produced a stunning second-half display to hammer Athletic Bilbao 4-1 away and move to within four points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid. The Spanish champions looked on course for back-to-back league defeats for the first time since April 2012 when Mikel Rico gave Athletic a deserved half-time lead late on Sunday.

But Griezmann levelled straight from the kick-off at the start of the second period and completed his hat-trick after Raul Garcia had put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot. Victory moves Atletico back to within three points of Barcelona, who were 5-0 winners over Cordoba on Saturday, in second. 

At the new San Mames both sides were missing a number of key players with Aymeric Laporte and Ander Iturraspe banned for the hosts, while Atletico were without the suspended duo of Koke and Mario Mandzukic, as well as Miranda through injury.

The champions emerged a different side after an inspired half-time pep talk from Diego Simeone and equalised straight from the kick-off as former Real Sociedad winger Griezmann came back to haunt his old Basque rivals once more with a precise header from Juanfran’s cross. Seven minutes later Atletico completed the comeback in controversial circumstances as the referee pointed to the spot when Tiago hit the floor under minimal contact between he and Mikel San Jose inside the area. Once the protests from the home fans and players had finally subsided, Garcia kept his cool to send Gorka Iraizoz the wrong way from the spot.

Atletico Madrid wrapped up the points five minutes later when Griezmann pounced on a slip by Carlos Gurpegi to calmly stroke the ball past Iraizoz. The Frenchman sealed his first Atletico hat-trick nine minutes from the end thanks to more generous officiating as he tapped into an empty net despite clearly being in an offside position after the ball ricocheted off Garcia. 

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