- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

MADRID (AP) - Atletico Madrid’s struggles continued in the Spanish league on Monday with a 3-0 loss at Villarreal, a result that left the club 12 points behind leader Real Madrid.

Two defensive mistakes in the first half - one by Tiago Mendes and another by goalkeeper Jan Oblak - led to Atletico’s third loss in five rounds and dropped Diego Simeone’s team to sixth place after 15 rounds.

The victory allowed Villarreal to surpass Atletico and Real Sociedad in the standings and move to fourth place, 11 points behind Madrid.

Madrid, second-placed Barcelona and third-placed Sevilla all won this weekend.

Simeone’s stout defense was no match for Villarreal, which hadn’t won in three consecutive league games.

Manuel Trigueros opened the scoring for the hosts at El Madrigal Stadium after intercepting a bad pass by Tiago just outside the Atletico area in the 28th minute. He cleared a couple of defenders before easily finding the net with a low shot into the far corner.

Mexican Jonathan dos Santos added to the lead from close range in the 38th after Oblak failed to hold onto a cross, and Roberto Soriano sealed the victory from near the penalty spot three minutes into second-half injury time.

“It’s important that we put that bad streak behind us,” Trigueros said. “We leave boosted by a good performance against a great rival.”

Atletico came closest to scoring with a one-on-one chance missed by Antoine Griezmann in the first half.

“We had our chances but couldn’t score,” Atletico captain Gabi Fernandez said. “They took advantage of our mistakes and got the three goals. Obviously we have to improve if we want to fight for the spots atop the standings.”

To make things worse for Atletico, Oblak and Tiago both had to be substituted in the first half because of injuries.

Atletico was coming off a defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, a result that snapped its perfect record in the European competition. It also had disappointed in a 0-0 home draw against Espanyol in the Spanish league last weekend. Among Atletico’s losses in its last five games was a 3-0 defeat to Madrid in the city derby at its Vicente Calderon Stadium.


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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