efe-epaEibar, Spain

Atletico Madrid earned a hard-fought 1-0 win here Saturday over Eibar, who benefited from a stellar performance by goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.

The victory lifts second-place Atleti to 68 points from 33 matches. The Colchoneros trail LaLiga leaders Barcelona by 6 points and have a 7-point advantage over capital rivals Real Madrid.

Eibar, with 40 points, are well above the drop zone in 13th.

Marc Cardona could have put Eibar ahead in the very first minute of play with a shot that went just wide and the hosts flew forward against an Atletico who were playing without star Antoine Griezmann, serving a suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards.

Atleti's Angel Correa had a golden chance in the 7th minute, when he got the ball behind the defenders, but Dmitrovic prevailed in the 1v1.

Following that chance, Atletico enjoyed a spell a dominance as Eibar were stymied by a well-organized defense that did not allow them to execute their typical attacking strategy based on runs down the flanks.

The contest evolved into a midfield battle that offered little in the way of attractive soccer while illuminating the determination of each side to wear down their opponents.

A situation that better suited Atletico, whose superior quality shifted the balance in their favor and enabled them to penetrate the Eibar defense, though without unduly troubling Dmitrovic.

The teams were deadlocked 0-0 when the half-time whistle blew, an accurate reflection of the run of play.

Signaling that they weren't ready to settle for a draw, Eibar created the first scoring chance of the second half on a header by Sergi Enrich, who connected with a cross from Joan Jordan.

A few minutes later, Alvaro Morata responded for Atletico, but his shot rolled just wide of Dmitrovic's left post.

Both teams seemed to be suffering from fatigue as the minutes passed and spaces started at open up at either end of the pitch.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who used his first change to replace Correa with Thomas Lemar in the 55th minute, decided to gamble with 22 minutes left by pulling defender Santiago Arias in favor of adding another striker, Nikola Kalinic.

The move could have been costly, as the first sequence after Arias left saw Enrich threaten from close range, but the chance came to nothing.

The pace quickened in the final 10 minutes. Dmitrovic miraculously blocked a header by Diego Godin, while Eibar's Kike Garcia sent a header wide of the mark.

With five minutes left in regulation, Lemar won the match for Atletico with a goal on a perfectly executed counter.

br/ta/dr