Antoine Griezmann headed two goals for Atletico Madrid in a 3-1 victory over Levante that kept them on the heels of La Liga leaders Real Madrid, as loan signing Fernando Torres watched from the stands at the Vicente Calderon.
The in-form Frenchman nodded in a deflected Guilherme Siqueira cross after 18 minutes against a Levante side that struggled to cope with the physicality of the hosts.
Griezmann, who grabbed a hat-trick in Atletico's final game before Christmas against Athletic Bilbao, then notched his eighth league goal of the season in the 47th minute as he headed in after Mario Mandzukic's effort was saved by Diego Marino.
Substitute Nabil El Zhar deflected an Ivan Lopez shot into the net for sixth from bottom Levante before Diego Godin sealed the win with eight minutes to go thanks to another header.
"We should have finished off the game in the first half but we did not pressurise enough," Godin told reporters. "My goal calmed us down as we had become nervous after conceding.
"It was important for us to finish the year winning and also start with another victory."
Atletico are third, level on 38 points with Barcelona who face Real Sociedad on Sunday when leaders Real Madrid, a point clear, take on Valencia looking to extend their 22-match winning streak.
Torres had been given an ovation as he returned to his boyhood club pending official clearance on Monday, and then watched as Atletico dominated the first half. Mandzukic was the focal point of their attacks but it was Griezmann who showed ruthlessness in front of goal.
Atletico eased off after half time, with one eye perhaps on their Copa del Rey first leg tie against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Make way for Torres
Griezmann ensured Los Rojiblancos' former captain Torres will find it hard to get into the side, but coach Diego Simeone suggested the Frenchman could eventually move out wide, where he has played for the majority of his career, to make way.
"More than just the goals, which are important for him and the team, I like when he tracks back, works and when he wins the ball back to be able to attack from better positions," Simeone said of Griezmann.
"He can play in different positions, as well as on the wing where he has played before. Not all games are equal and there could be times when all the forwards play."
Elsewhere, Sevilla moved above Valencia into fourth, but were far from convincing in a 1-0 win over 10-man Celta Vigo.
The visitors were forced to play 70 minutes with 10 men after Carles Planas was shown a straight red card for chopping down Denis Suarez.
Nico Pareja then scored the only goal of the game from a free-kick 12 minutes later to continue Sevilla's unbeaten record at home this season.