By Antonio Gutierrez
Sevilla, Spain, Apr 11 (efe-epa).- Atletico de Madrid added one point to its table total at Benito Villamarin stadium on Sunday in a lackluster 1-1 match against Real Betis, a result that enabled the capital squad to retain its No. 1 spot in La Liga with just eight weeks to go in the season but during which its rivals caused significant problems.
The contest was played before empty stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.
The Madrid team was partially hindered by injuries to forward Joao Felix and right-back Kieran Trippier during the match, with strikers Luis Suarez and Moussa Dembele, along with Thomas Lemar, already out.
Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini also had to contend with injuries, with forward Borja Iglesias and midfielder Andres Guardado on the injury list, and Victor Ruiz out on a sanction.
A tally by Cristian Tello at the 20-miute mark evened things up for the hosts after Atletico went ahead just five minutes into play on a shot by Yannick Carrasco into an empty net, but from there on out little of interest occurred as it seemed that both teams had tacitly agreed to settle for the draw.
Diego Simeone’s boys had little margin for error after defending champion Real Madrid’s 2-1 win on Saturday over third-place Barcelona, which temporarily knocked Atletico out of the leadership spot where it had ensconced itself months ago.
According to the match statistics – time of possession, fouls, shots, shots on goal and corner kicks – the two teams were almost evenly matched, a situation that does not appear to bode well for Atletico, who were 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals in January but have won only three of their past 11 matches in all competitions and seem to be unable to find the drive to push forward any longer.
With the win, Atletico is on top of the table with 67 points, one ahead of Real Madrid and two ahead of Barcelona. Sevilla is in fourth place with 58, followed by Real Sociedad in fifth on goal differential with 47 and Betis in sixth, also with 47 points.
Betis goaltender Claudio Bravo saved his squad from defeat with two great blocks in injury time on shots by Angel Correa.
Betis: Claudio Bravo; Emerson, Mandi, Bartra, Alex Moreno; Guido Rodriguez (William Carvalho, 90), Canales; Joaquin (Juanmi, m.63), Aitor Ruibal (Lainez, m.75), Fekir and Tello.
Atletico de Madrid: Oblak; Trippier (Vrsaljko, m.78), Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso (Lodi, m.64), Carrasco; Saul Níguez, Herrera (Vitolo, m.64), Koke; Correa and Joao Félix (Torreira, m.48).
Referee: Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez handed out no yellow or red cards to either squad.