Saul gives Atletico a hard-fought win at Osasuna

Jan 29 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid needed a second-half goal from substitute Saul Niguez to earn a hard-fought 1-0 away win over in-form Osasuna in LaLiga on Sunday.

Saul came off the bench to score in the 74th minute on a counter-attack when Rodrigo de Paul showed great vision to see his team mate ghosting in behind Osasuna's defence and delivered a perfectly placed long ball through.

The 28-year-old midfielder showed good composure to sprint inside the box and rifle an unstoppable shot to the goalkeeper's left.

His goal and a catalogue of saves by goalkeeper Jan Oblak saved Atletico from another disappointing showing. Following their 3-0 win at Real Valladolid last weekend, it's the second time this season that they have won two league matches in a row.

Atletico, who finished last in their Champions League group and were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by rivals Real Madrid on Thursday, needed the three points to stay in the hunt for one of LaLiga's four spots in Europe's top competition next season.

They are fourth in the LaLiga standings on 34 points, four behind third-placed Real Sociedad who have a game in hand and will play at second-placed Real Madrid later on Sunday. Barcelona are top on 47 points.

"It is true that we were eliminated from the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, but we are Atletico Madrid and in this club you have to give it all until the last match, it's a privilege to defend these colours," manager Diego Simeone told Movistar Plus.

"We gave our best version when those who came off the bench injected a new strength and energy.

"We will keep fighting and competing, it's in our DNA."

The lively Antoine Griezmann had the best two chances in a dour first-half on a chilly afternoon at El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona but failed to hit the target on both occasions.

Osasuna came back a little better after the break and Oblak denied shots by Moi Gomez and Diego Moreno in the 62nd and 71st minutes with brilliant reflex saves.

After Saul scored in the 74th, Oblak made at least three other saves to keep Osasuna from scoring as they made a late push for a point.

Reporting by Fernando Kallas Editing by Christian Radnedge

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