Joao Felix kept up his fine scoring form to help Atletico Madrid beat Cadiz 2-1 at home in the Spanish league, a timely morale booster ahead of their Champions League decider against Manchester United.
After struggling for most of the season, Diego Simeone’s Atletico are producing their best football in months with a run of four straight wins in the domestic league only interrupted by a 1-1 home draw with United two weeks ago.
Atletico visit Old Trafford on Tuesday for the second leg of their round-of-16 tie.
Felix got his fifth goal in as many matches after scoring early to send Atletico on their way to victory.
The 22-year-old forward intercepted a poor pass by Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma and calmly curled in a strike from a tight angle just two minutes into the match. It was his fifth goal in as many matches.
The hosts were almost left with 10 men in the 40th when Reinildo Mandava was shown a red card for a low tackle, but the referee changed it to yellow after a video review.
Alvaro Negredo pulled Cadiz level just before half-time when he headed in a cross by Pacha Espino. Atletico’s defence lost track of Cadiz’s veteran striker with four attacking players flooding the box.
Seeing his attack struggling, Simeone sent on Luis Suarez and Angel Correa for Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco with half an hour left.
Suarez and Correa played a part in Rodrigo de Paul’s winner. Suarez passed to Correa, whose shot was blocked by Ledesma, only for the ball to fall into the path of De Paul who was charging into the box. The Argentina midfielder steered the ball into the corner of the net.
Atletico then needed a defensive stop by centre back Jose Gimenez to protect the victory. Gimenez used his head to parry a shot by Luis Hernandez after a poor clearance attempt by goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Atletico briefly ended up with 10 players after substitute Javi Serrano saw a direct red after tackling Alex Fernandez with two minutes remaining.
The referee also sent off two members of Cadiz’s staff from the dugout, apparently for protesting in the final minutes.
Atletico moved into third place ahead of Barcelona. The defending champions are 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid and four behind Sevilla in second.
Cadiz remained in the relegation zone.