MADRID: A first-half penalty by Yannick Carrasco earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 victory in a fiery derby clash against champions Real Madrid on Sunday, as the hosts tightened their grip on a place in next season's Champions League.
Diego Simeone's side remain fourth in the standings on 64 points, six clear of Real Betis in fifth, and with three games left to play they edged closer to a top-four finish, to qualify for Europe's top club competition.
"Everyone will compete to reach the goal, but it is a strong and decisive step," Simeone told Movistar.
"We know what this game is like, it's a game of strength and whoever doesn't have it has to lose."
Atletico, who welcomed the newly crowned LaLiga champions to the Wanda Metropolitano without the traditional guard of honour, came out pressing high as Angel Correa and Carrasco had two great chances to open the scoring within the first ten minutes.
Carrasco put the hosts ahead in the 40th minute, after the referee changed his initial decision and a penalty was awarded to Atletico following a VAR review for a foul on Matheus Cunha.
The midfielder calmly lashed the ball past goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, as the 23-year-old Ukrainian made his LaLiga debut for Real Madrid almost four years after he had signed for the club.
The goal sparked Carlo Ancelotti's side into life, despite several players being rested after Real clinched their 35th league title last weekend, and some powerful shots threatened goalkeeper Jan Oblak's goal before halftime.
The Slovenia international pulled off another great save to deny Casemiro in the 59th minute and Federico Valverde 10 minutes later.
Atletico substitute Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, troubled Real keeper with some splendid shots, and Carrasco hit the left post.
Minutes before fulltime, Oblak kept out Marco Asensio's attempt to equalise with a low free-kick effort from outside of the box, as the hosts grabbed their first Madrid derby win since 2015.
"It was a good game, competitive, evenly matched," Ancelotti said.
"We couldn't ask for much more from this match, which comes after a very exciting week. I really didn't expect more."
Usually, the opposition applaud the newly-crowned champions onto the pitch by lining up either side of them before kickoff but manager Diego Simeone said Atletico chose not to give Real players the guard of honour on Sunday out of respect for their own fans.
Barcelona, however, gave Real Betis players a guard of honour on Saturday to mark their Copa del Rey victory last month.
Atletico next travel to Elche on Wednesday, following which they have a tough run-in with games against third-placed Sevilla and sixth-placed Real Sociedad.
Real, who lost only four LaLiga games this season, host relegation-threatened Levante on Thursday.