BY SEDARA OLUWADARA
Former Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao earned Rayo Vallecano a 1-1 draw against his old side in La Liga with a 92nd minute penalty on Tuesday.
Alvaro Morata’s first-half strike seemed poised to help Atletico strengthen their grip on third place and keep close to leaders Real Madrid and Barcelona, but Rayo snatched a deserved draw.
Atletico deserved their first half lead but after the break the hosts had their backs to the wall at the Metropolitano and the pressure eventually told when Jose Gimenez handled in the box.
The Rojiblancos broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when Antoine Griezmann won the ball high up the pitch and crossed for his strike partner to finish consummately.
The France forward, who scored Atletico’s winner against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend, was impressive again and seems to be returning to his best level.
Rayo substitute Sergio Camello came close with a shot which flashed just past the post.
The lively striker, on loan from Atletico, nearly set up Falcao to score but Ivo Grbic saved and Gimenez managed to hack the ball away.
Griezmann sent a wild strike wide at the other end and then fired home when Matheus Cunha slipped him through, but the goal was disallowed for a tight offside.
Cunha then had a shot saved from a tight angle as Atletico rediscovered some attacking impetus, but when Gimenez handled in stoppage time they surrendered the three points.
Falcao, who played for Atletico between 2011-2013, slammed the penalty into the top corner, sending Grbic the wrong way.
Erik Lamela’s 86th minute strike earned Jorge Sampaoli’s side a creditable draw against Gennaro Gattuso’s relentless Los Che, in a pulsating clash at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Sampaoli was not able to build on his first win since replacing Julen Lopetegui at the helm, but will be happy with a point as Valencia blew the chance to snatch all three in stoppage time.
After netting a brace against Elche to open his Valencia account at the weekend, Edinson Cavani sent the visitors ahead with a firm header from Dimitri Foulquier’s deep cross in the sixth minute.
Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili made two stunning saves in quick succession to deny Rafa Mir, first twisting to tip over a vicious strike, then clawing away a header.