By Antonio Gutierrez
Sevilla, Spain, Apr 4 (efe-epa).- Sevilla, on a second-half goal scored by Argentina’s Marcos Acuña and by taking advantage of their rivals’ deficiencies, blanked Atletico de Madrid at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on Sunday, although the latter remains – for the moment, at least – the La Liga leader in the final stretch of the season.
Nevertheless, Real Madrid and Barcelona are giving Atletico a run for their money, with Diego Simeone’s squad – at 66 points – slipping in terms of execution and prospects for staying on top.
Julen Lopetegui’s team, meanwhile, cemented its position in fourth place after adding three points to its overall point tally, now standing at 58, clearly dominating Sunday’s match during the first half, although play after the intermission was more balanced.
The Sevilla team took advantage of its offensive and defensive opportunities throughout the match and protected its lead right up until the final whistle.
The match was a test of Atletico’s fortitude in maintaining itself in the No. 1 slot, with 10 weeks to go in the season, although Real Madrid beat Eibar 2-0 on Saturday for 63 points and Barcelona, which plays Valladolid on Monday at Camp Nou and looks primed for a win, which would give it 65 points.
The Madrid team has shown some cracks in its play in recent weeks and Sunday’s match could have given them a real boost, had they triumphed, although they came into fray weakened with Joao Felix out with an ankle injury, Yannick Carrasco suspended and Stefan Savic down with gastrointestinal problems.
The match started off intensely, as predicted, but Sevilla had the jump on the capital team in terms of speed, although it squandered an early opportunity to get on the board, nevertheless retaining the initiative and driving in from both sides, firing from long distance.
At the 70-minute mark, Jesus Navas knocked a good pass from deep to Acuña, who headed in the 1-0, and despite Madrid’s protests that the goal was preceded by Ocampos touching the ball with his hand, the VAR revealed nothing untoward in the play and the goal stood.
The capital squad drove in desperately for the tying goal, and Mario Hermoso had a very clear chance a few minutes later but sent the ball high although he was alone in the area.
Sevilla: Bono; Jesus Navas, Kounde, Diego Carlos, Acuña; Fernando, Jordan (Gudelj, m.87); Suso (Papu Gomez, m.77), Rakitic, Ocampos (Franco Vazquez, m.87); and De Jong (En-Nesyri, m.62).
Atletico de Madrid: Oblak; Trippier, Gimenez, Felipe, Hermoso (Herrera, m.73), Lodi (Correa, m.34); Llorente, Koke, Saul; Lemar (Kondogbia, m.73) and Luis Suarez.
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano, who showed yellow cards to Atletico’s Felipe, Luis Suarez, Llorents and Kondogbia and to Sevilla’s Ciego Carlos and Acuña