Angel Correa scored a wonder-goal from just inside the halfway-line on Sunday as Atletico Madrid fought back to claim a thrilling 2-2 draw with Villarreal.
Atletico took an early lead at La Ceramica when Correa drove a stunning shot over Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli but they fell behind in the second half, after Pau Torres and Alberto Moreno turned the game on its head.
Geoffrey Kondogbia pulled Atletico level again, with the midfielder then sent off in injury-time for a second yellow card. Amid the mayhem, Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno also missed a penalty when Atletico were in front.
Correa’s goal was his seventh of the campaign and will be a strong contender for goal of the season, coming against Rulli, his fellow Argentinian.
“I know Rulli well and I know he has this way of standing a long way out of his goal,” Correa said afterwards. “I thought I’d have a go and it came off pretty well.”
“It’s an incredible goal, it could be goal of the season,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone.
Villarreal came into the game on the back of losing 2-1 to Segunda side Sporting Gijon in the Copa del Rey in midweek and Unai Emery will likely be the more disappointed of the two coaches not to emerge with a victory.
Simeone clenched his fists at the final whistle.
Atletico regain fourth place, now level on points with Real Sociedad in fifth, and 16 behind leaders Real Madrid, albeit with a game in hand.
Villarreal stay eighth, but only four points adrift of the Champions League qualification places.
Sevilla earlier defeated Getafe 1-0 to reduce the gap again to Real Madrid to five points.
Real Betis, who sit third, held on for a 1-1 draw away at Rayo Vallecano, despite having Alex Moreno sent off in the first half.
Correa’s thunderbolt came in the tenth minute and caught everyone by surprise, not just Rulli.
Dani Parejo was guilty of giving the ball away on the halfway line but Correa made it into an error by intercepting, touching the ball into the Villarreal half and then arrowing a superb lob from 50 yards over the leaping Rulli and in.
Gerard Moreno missed the chance to equalise from the penalty spot, Jan Oblak making the save, and while Parejo bundled in the rebound, his equaliser was chalked off after VAR ruled the ball had come off his hand.
Parejo was involved in the equaliser when it came, though, his dipping cross from out wide dropping awkwardly in front of Oblak, who still should have collected but instead spilled for Pau Torres to prod in.
Villarreal were in the ascendancy and took the lead just before the hour, with left-back Alberto Moreno doing an excellent impression of an elite striker as he laid the ball off with his head and then span in behind, latching onto Gerard Moreno’s through ball and finishing past Oblak.
Yet Atletico were not done yet, with Kondogbia pulling them level again nine minutes later when a Yannick Carrasco run and cross gave Correa a chance on the turn. Rulli’s right foot made the block but Kondogbia fired in, through the cluster of bodies and under the unsighted goakeeper.
Kondogbia was sent off in the 92nd minute after a body-check on Yeremy Pino earned him a second yellow card.
Sevilla had earlier kept in touch with Real Madrid after Rafa Mir’s flicked finish sealed a 1-0 win at home to Getafe.
With Real Madrid away in Saudi Arabia playing in the Spanish Super Cup this week, Sevilla will have the chance to reduce the difference to two points by beating Valencia next weekend.
Inputs from AFP