Real Madrid held again in Spain, Atletico wins sixth straight

Alaves' Joselu, left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Alaves. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

MADRID — As Diego Simeone keeps celebrating Atletico Madrid victories, Zinedine Zidane continues to look for answers to Real Madrid’s struggles.

Atletico defeated Valencia 1-0 for a sixth win in a row in the Spanish league on Saturday, while Madrid lost to Alaves 2-1 at home for its third straight setback, dropping six points behind the city rival and having played one extra game.

"I don’t have an explanation," Zidane said. "We haven’t been consistent. We need to change this dynamic."

Lucas Perez scored in the first half and Joselu in the second after a blunder by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for mid-table Alaves.

Madrid was left in fourth place, six points off the lead. Casemiro scored their lone goal in the 86th.

Atletico’s earlier victory put Simeone’s team tied on points with leader Real Sociedad with a game in hand. Sociedad hosts third-placed Villarreal on Sunday.

Madrid also lost Eden Hazard because of an apparent injury in the first half, the latest injury woe for the Belgium forward who was making only his fifth start this season.

"Hopefully it was just a knock and not a muscle injury," Zidane said.

Madrid defeated Inter Milan in the Champions League midweek but was coming off two consecutive setbacks in the league. It has only seven wins in 14 matches this season.

"We need to keep working hard and change things around," Zidane said.

Alaves had drawn three straight games, including 1-1 with Barcelona at home while playing with 10 men.

"It was a deserved victory," Alaves coach Pablo Machin said. "We could have scored even more goals. We had the most significant scoring chances. I’m very proud."

Perez opened the scoring five minutes into the match from the penalty spot after a handball inside the area by Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez. Courtois gave away the second goal in the 49th after his pass from the back to Casemiro came out too weak and was intercepted by Joselu, who sent a low shot into the open net from outside the area.

Casemiro pulled Madrid closer late from close range. The best chance to equalize came when Francisco "Isco" Alarcon hit the crossbar in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

A Diego Maradona jersey was put alongside the Real Madrid reserve players, and a moment of silence was observed before the match as a tribute to the Argentina great who died this week.

ATLETICO’S STREAK

Atletico Madrid defeated Valencia with an own-goal by Valencia defender Toni Lato in the 79th minute. Victory extended its winning streak to six matches in the Spanish league.

"Luck also plays a role sometimes," said Atletico midfielder Yannick Carrasco, who came into the match in the second half. "It’s always hard to play here, so we are happy to have won."

Atletico is yet to trail in the league and remains the only unbeaten team. It hasn’t lost in 25 league matches, going back to last season.

Coach Diego Simeone was moved by a pre-match tribute to former Argentina teammate Diego Maradona at Mestalla Stadium.

"I believed it was important to say one final goodbye by applauding him," Simeone said.

Valencia dropped to 11th place after failing to beat Atletico for a 12th straight time in the league since 2014.

OTHER RESULTS

Sevilla beat Huesca 1-0 for its fifth victory in a row in all competitions. Huesca remains the only winless team in the Spanish league.

Elche and Cadiz drew 1-1 in a match between promoted clubs. Elche played a man from first-half stoppage time after scorer Lucas Boye was sent off for a second yellow card.

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