MADRID, April 22 (Reuters) - Antoine Griezmann's second-half strike was enough for under-par Atletico Madrid to beat Espanyol 1-0 on Saturday, tightening their grip on third place in La Liga.
The Frenchman scored with a left-footed volley in the 73rd minute after Saul Niguez’s shot was deflected into his path, extending Atletico's unbeaten record to 12 games.
Atletico's Yannick Carrasco had forced a smart save from goalkeeper Diego Lopez as the visitors made the early running, though it was the Catalans who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession during the first half without ever threatening.
After the break Pablo Piatti had a shot cleared off the line by Atletico defender Stefan Savic before the visitors went close through substitute Kevin Gameiro.
After Griezmann had put his side ahead, former Atletico striker Leo Baptistao was denied one-on-one by keeper Jan Oblak as Espanyol sought an immediate riposte, while Gerard Moreno put a header wide late on.
Diego Simeone’s side sit three points ahead of fourth-placed Sevilla on 68 points, while Espanyol remain ninth with 49.
Sporting Gijon lost ground in their bid to escape the relegation zone, requiring two late goals to salvage a 2-2 draw against bottom-of-the-table Osasuna.
Sporting are four points behind fourth-from-bottom Leganes, who lost 2-1 to Villarreal, with five games to play while Osasuna are nine points from safety. (Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Clare Fallon)