Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone faced increased pressure after the La Liga champions slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat by Granada on Wednesday.
With Atletico having lost four successive league matches for the first time since Simeone took charge in 2011, the Argentinian’s role has come under scrutiny from club supporters and Spanish media.
It took less than two minutes for Joao Felix to fire Atletico ahead with a perfect low shot from the edge of the box, with the goal demonstrating why the fans had been urging Simeone to play the Portuguese striker from the start more often.
But Granada equalised 15 minutes later with a stupendous long shot from Darwin Machis.
Felix desperately tried to score a second goal but he was frustrated by an equally determined Granada, who found the winner midway through the second half thanks to Jorge Molina.
Granada survived a frenzied final 20 minutes during which Atletico desperately tried to score an equaliser without success. It was Granada’s first win against Atletico since 1973, ending a 25-game winless streak.
Simeone’s judgment is being questioned as Atletico’s usually rock-solid defence has now leaked in 22 goals in 18 games this season, with the champions keeping only five clean sheets in La Liga during that time. In contrast, they had conceded only eight goals at the same stage last season.
Atletico sit fifth in the standings with 29 points after 18 games, 17 points behind Real Madrid.
Karim Benzema scored two goals in the opening seven minutes to send leaders Real Madrid eight points clear at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.
Real, who were missing eight players due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the club, stretched their unbeaten run to 15 matches in all competitions.
Benzema broke the 400-goal mark in his professional career with a stunning strike from just outside the box in the fourth minute before adding another just three minutes later when an Athletic defender missed a clearance.
Oihan Sancet stopped Real’s momentum with a sensational goal in the 10th minute. The hosts put up a fight but Real held on to secure all three points.
Serie A – Napoli stunned by Spezia
Third-place Napoli dropped seven points behind Serie A leaders Inter after losing 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Spezia, who benefited from an own-goal from Napoli defender Juan Jesus.
Napoli were missing captain Lorenzo Insigne, who tested positive for Covid-19, while Spezia did not produce a single shot on goal.
Inter Milan concluded the year with a 1-0 win over Torino to remain top of the league heading into the winter break
Denzel Dumfries scored from the edge of the area, finishing a counter-attack after taking a backheel pass from Edin Dzeko during the first half at the San Siro. It was the third goal in four matches for the Netherlands right-back.
AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie played a starring role by scoring twice in a 4-2 win over Empoli, leaving the Rossoneri second in Serie A at the midway stage of the season.
The Ivory Coast international was deployed in a more advanced attacking midfield position, and excelled in the role by striking twice before half-time, either side of Nedim Bajrami’s goal for Empoli.
An Alessandro Florenzi free-kick and a Theo Hernandez goal extended the visitors’ lead, before Andrea Pinamonti pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot.
Manolo Gabbiadini scored 10 minutes from time to secure a 1-1 draw for Sampdoria at Roma.
Eldor Shomurodov had put Roma ahead eight minutes earlier. Gabbiadini then scored from close range following a corner.
Roma are level on points with seventh-place Fiorentina, who drew 1-1 at Hellas Verona. Gaetano Castrovilli equalised for the Viola with a diving header following an opener from Kevin Lasagna.
Lazio won 3-1 at Venezia despite missing striker Ciro Immobile, who has coronavirus. Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Luis Alberto scored for the Roman club.
Also, Bologna won 3-0 at Sassuolo with goals from Riccardo Orsolini, Aaron Hickey and Federico Santander. It was the fourth goal this season for Scottish midfielder Hickey.
Ligue 1 – Ramos sent off as PSG salvage draw
Mauro Icardi’s stoppage-time strike helped 10-man Paris Saint-Germain salvage a fortunate 1-1 draw at lowly Lorient in a dismal performance.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who had Sergio Ramos sent off, have 46 points from 19 games with Nice in second place 13 points behind after a 2-1 comeback win at home against RC Lens.
Third-placed Marseille, who have a game in hand, trail Nice on goal difference after being caught cold at the Velodrome in a 1-1 draw against Reims, Dimitri Payet salvaging a point with a penalty eight minutes into injury-time.
Rennes are fourth on 31 points after a 2-1 defeat at Monaco.
Elsewhere, Montpellier consolidated their fifth place with a convincing 4-1 home victory against mid-table Angers and champions Lille moved up to eighth when Jonathan David’s late goal gave them a 3-2 victory at Bordeaux.
The game between Clermont and Racing Strasbourg was postponed because of foggy conditions.