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Sime Vrsaljko 8/10, Fernando Torres 7/10 in Atletico Madrid win

Atletico Madrid quietly won their fourth straight and moved into second in La Liga.
Atletico Madrid quietly won their fourth straight and moved into second in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid ground out yet another 1-0 victory at home to Alaves on Saturday night to quietly move into second place in La Liga.

In what at best can be described as a dull first half, neither side played much football with the bitterly cold temperatures in the Spanish capital not helping things on -- or off, with the fans doing their best not to freeze -- the pitch.

Yet Atleti, as they so often do, found a way. Alaves were resilient, but substitute Fernando Torres netted his first La Liga goal of the season to secure all three points and leave nobody in doubt that Los Rojiblancos want to be Barcelona's main challengers for the title this year. 

Atletico MadridAtletico Madrid
AlavésAlavés
1
0
FT
Game Details

Positives

Unbeaten in the league, El Nino back in the goals and Sime Vrsaljko looking like a player again.

Negatives

To describe the match as extremely dull is being kind, however the ultra-defensive Alaves have to take their fair share of the blame for that.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Diego Simeone's starting XI was not what was needed against such a deep low-block defence, but his substitutions made all the difference.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jan Oblak, 6 -- You worry he might have caught a cold standing around in the cold doing nothing.

DF Sime Vrsaljko, 8 -- Where has this been? Showedl the kind of energy, directness and intent that saw him displace Juanfran last season. Wonderful cross for the goal capped his display. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come, as opposed to putting himself in the shop window.

DF Stefan Savic, 6 -- Looked as if he might have his work cut out with Alaves's nippy duo up front preferring to play with the ball at their feet but after the opening exchanges hds little to do. Did what was required.

DF Diego Godin, 7 -- Did well to snuff out an early chance for the visitors and that was about as much hard work as he had to do in defence. Could -- probably should -- have scored from a first-half header. 

DF Filipe Luis, 6 -- Attacked well however the final ball was a bit lacking. Might have got a penalty on another day after being caught late in the box.

MF Koke, 6 -- Forced a neat save with a rare shot at goal in the first period. Grew into it more after the break as Los Colchoneros pressed forwards.

MF Gabi, 7 -- Neat and tidy, as he always is. Recycles the ball so well and it was he who started the move that ended in the goal. Put in a couple of tasty free kicks from wide areas.

Fernando Torres picked an opportune time to get off the mark in the league for Atletico.
Fernando Torres picked an opportune time to get off the mark in the league for Atletico.

MF Saul Niguez, 5 -- Not his best day at the office. Should have scored in the first half but dallied a split second too long and his effort was blocked. Hooked with just over 20 minutes to go and the man who replaced him scored the winner.

MF Thomas Partey, 5 -- Hopeless in possession, resulting in his unceremonious hooking at the break. Looks tired after becoming a fixture in the team this season and could do with a rest. 

FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 -- Was always trying to make something happen and linked well with those around him. Looks a different player to the sulking figure of six weeks ago. 

FW Kevin Gameiro, 5 -- Alaves was never going to give a striker who likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender the kind of room to do them damage. Unfortunately for Gameiro, when he does not have that kind of room he brings very little to the party. 

Substitutes

Angel Correa, 7 -- Should have started. Was direct and his quick feet and low centre of gravity are what is needed against such defensive opponents. Involved in build up for the goal, too.

Fernando Torres, 7 -- With his side looking devoid of ideas, he picked a great time to pop up with his first league effort of the season. Has looked in decent form of late and is pushing for a start next time out.

Yannick Carrasco, 7 -- A lively cameo. Another who against this kind of opponent should probably be starting.

Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.

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