Atletico Madrid held 1-1 by Celta

Vigo, Spain, Jul 7 (efe-epa).- Atletico Madrid dropped points here Tuesday against modest Celta, who produced an impressive second half performance to draw 1-1 with the third-place side from the capital.

It was a good result for the hosts, who increased their distance from the bottom three to 7 points.

And while the outcome left Atletico just 3 points ahead of Sevilla, they lead fifth-place Villarreal by 9 points and look almost assured of a top-four finish and Champions League play in 2020-2021.

Celta coach Oscar Garcia started with a five-man backline only to see his side concede in the first minute on a giveaway by Iago Aspas.

Atleti’s Santiago Arias pounced on the ball and relayed it to Angel Correa, whose cross found Alvaro Morata for the easy goal.

Playing with the lead, the Colchoneros were happy to cede possession to a Celta attack that failed to gel, though visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak was troubled by a pair of shots from distance by Brais Mendez.

The home side were greatly improved in the second half and got the equalizer within the first five minutes, as Fran Beltran surprised Oblak with an acrobatic effort off a pass from Mendez.

Celta went for the win. Both Mendez and Santi Mina forced Oblak into action and a ball from Mini to Aspas on the edge of the six-yard box rolled just out of the striker’s reach.

But the home side’s attack fizzled as the match entered the final phase, due to a combination of fresh legs for Atletico and an injury to starting keeper Ruben Blanco, as Celta fell back to protect backup Ivan Villar, making his first appearance of the pandemic-disrupted season.

In Tuesday’s other match, a goal conjured out of nothing by Lee Kang-in with a minute left in regulation allowed Valencia to prevail 2-1 over a tough Real Valladolid squad.

The result lifted Valencia into eighth place with 50 points, close enough to the teams above them to add intrigue to the scramble for the final European spots.

Valladolid, 13th in the LaLiga table, are 10 points above the drop zone with three games to play.

The visitors held their own for the first 15 minutes of the contest at the Mestalla and had the better chances even after Valencia began to dominate possession, as Waldo Rubio and Victor Garcia forced stops from keeper Jaume Domenech.

But Valladolid fell behind in the 30th minute after a giveaway put the ball on the foot of Valencia’s Kevin Gameiro, who passed to Maxi Gomez to make it 1-0.

The goal settled Valencia’s nerves and they controlled the pace for the rest of the first half, though without ever coming close to getting a second goal.

The hosts would come to regret that failure just two minutes into the second period, when Valladolid pulled level on a goal by LaLiga newcomer Victor Garcia.

Valencia responded with a flurry of activity that made little impact on the solid, well-organized Valladolid defense.

As the minutes passed, the increasingly confident visitors advanced their lines to the point that Valencia struggled to break out of their own half.

Valladolid were looking more likely to find a winner right up until the 89th minute, when the first-year player from South Korea claimed all 3 points for the home side.


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