Liga - Atletico share spoils at Sevilla
Sevilla were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid as neither side was able to close the gap on fourth place in La Liga.
Eduardo Salvio gave the visitors an early lead in a scrappy match that Sevilla levelled when, early on the second half, Baba Diawara scored in his first start for the club.
Chances were few and far between after that as neither side did enough to warrant victory, nor ultimately deserve defeat.
The result leaves both sides in mid-table with 33 points, although La Liga is congested outside the top two: Malaga’s win at Getafe earlier means they move fourth with 37 points.
Diego Simeone has tried to mould Atletico in his image, and with some success: their matches are scrappy, combative affairs and Saturday night at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan was no exception, the hosts struggling to play the kind of attractive attacking game that has led to their resurgence under Michel.
Atletico took an early lead to stifle Seville further eight minutes in, when Salvio’s superb off-the-ball movement allowed him to ghost in unmarked to head Filipe’s fine cross into the bottom left.
Argentine winger Salvio was playing a more advanced role in the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao and Arda Turan, and he had more chances to add to his goal, both well-executed volleys from wide well-saved by Andres Palop.
Sevilla, meanwhile, were growing frustrated although they did carve out half-chances as - from a tight angle - Jose Antonio Reyes fired wide against his old club, with veteran striker Fredi Kanoute heading an Ivan Rakitic free-kick over.
They were clearly missing Alvaro Negredo though, replacement Diawara struggling up front on his second start for Sevilla since joining from Maritimo.
The second half started positively enough as Reyes’s low centre caused havoc in the Atletico box, Jesus Navas drilling a cross-shot that Alvaro Dominguez hacked clear, Rakitic hammering the rebound well over.
Diawara had missed Reyes’s original ball and he was set to go off when he opened his Sevilla account: down the other end, Bosnia defender Emir Spahic had denied Salvio a run on goal with a perfectly-timed tackle and, from the counter attack, Navas picked out Diawara with a fantastic swerving low cross. The Senegalese responded with a vicious first-time finish into the bottom right.
That extended his night’s work, Michel electing to bring Rakitic off instead, although Diawara ended up picking up an injury that ended his match early.
His team-mates were doing a solid job though, now dominating possession and going closest when Reyes’s flying header was parried by an alert Thibaut Courtois.
Shots on goal were rare though, with both defences cancelling each other out and Atletico in particular taking pleasure in breaking up the play.
Indeed, the latter stages appeared to see both sides go through the motions somewhat, although Sevilla did have the ball in the back of the net at the death - sub Manu del Moral had strayed offside and the goal was correctly ruled out.
That sparked some intense injury-time pressure from the hosts, but with little goal threat as Simeone’s side rode the pressure out to claim a point, staying ahead of Sevilla on goal difference, level on head-to-head after the draw in Madrid.