MADRID (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid proved their title credentials yet again by beating in-form Sevilla 2-0 at home on Tuesday to stride four points clear at the top of the standings.
Atletico got off to an ideal start when Angel Correa received a pass from returning right back Kieran Trippier and took Sevilla by surprise with a shot which bounced in off the near post to give them the lead in the 17th minute.
Midfielder Saul Niguez effectively clinched the victory with a thumping effort from the edge of the area in the 76th to score his first goal of the season and condemn Sevilla to a first defeat in 10 games in all competitions.
The victory took Atletico on to 41 points after 16 games, four clear of second-placed Real Madrid who have played 18.
"We knew we would have to suffer in certain moments in the game but they didn't cause us too much danger, they had a lot of possession but couldn't harm us," said goalscorer Correa.
"We prepare for every game in order to win it and that's what we're trying to do. We knew Sevilla would be difficult opponents, they are having a great season, so I'm very happy we managed to win."
Atletico had enjoyed a rest over the weekend as their match with Athletic Bilbao had been postponed due to a snowstorm in the Spanish capital, although the freezing conditions had also disrupted their training schedule.
Thick mounds of snow could be seen on the sidelines of the Wanda Metropolitano and with temperatures dropping to minus seven Celsius, Atletico's substitutes kept warm in the stands by warming up with exercise bikes placed next to electric heaters.
Sevilla midfielder Fernando admitted his side, from one of the few cities in Spain that were spared the snow, struggled to cope with the weather.
"It's difficult to play when it's this cold and they are an excellent side so it was tough for us, but they had only really two chances and scored two goals," he said.
The home side welcomed back Trippier for the first time since Dec. 23 after his 10-week suspension for breaking betting rules in England was put on hold pending an appeal and the England defender proved his value by playing a big part in both goals.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone opted to start 126-million-euro ($154 million) forward Joao Felix on the bench for the second game in a row in favour of Correa and the Argentine repaid his faith with an enterprising shot from the edge of the area, flummoxing Sevilla keeper Bono.
Sevilla had won seven of their previous nine matches and did not make things easy for Diego Simeone's side, firing 13 shots at goal to Atletico's five although only managing to work Atletico keeper Jan Oblak twice.
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(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)