Lowly Sevilla deal Atletico blow in Liga title race

rugby11 February 2024 20:17| © AFP

Atletico Madrid's faint hopes of challenging for LaLiga deflated further with a 1-0 defeat by Sevilla on Sunday.

Isaac Romero headed home after 15 minutes for the Andalucians to earn them a second consecutive victory for the first time all season and take them to 15th, six points clear of the relegation zone.

Atletico, fourth, trail league leaders Real Madrid by 13 points and their hopes of silverware are now pinned on the Champions League.

"It's a story that's repeated so many times, we have to improve ... when you start the game and they score against you, it's complicated," Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak told DAZN.

"We started badly, and they punished us. It's not the first time, it keeps happening and until we change that it's hard to win on the road."

Oblak admitted his team were trailing arch-rivals Real Madrid by some distance.

"We've lost a lot of points, so many, and games away from home – it's something that can't happen if you want to fight for LaLiga," he added.

"It's the truth, we have to be honest ... we're a long way off Real Madrid."

Coach Diego Simeone handed centre-back Gabriel Paulista his debut after his recent switch from Valencia, hoping for defensive solidity.

However Quique Sanchez Flores's Sevilla, battling the drop, took an early lead to delight the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

Romero opened the scoring for Sevilla with a header at the back post after a corner was flicked on to him.

Atletico striker Alvaro Morata hit the post for the visitors before Romero headed straight at Oblak when well placed.

The 23-year-old striker from Sevilla's academy, brought into the first team by Sanchez Flores, then hit the crossbar with his team firmly on top.

Oblak saved from Oliver Torres and Morata wasted a chance when through on goal with Sevilla goalkeeper Orland Nyland denying him. It was Morata's final contribution.

The Spain forward limped off with an apparent knee injury after a challenge with Boubakary Soumare, with national team coach Luis de la Fuente watching on in dismay ahead of friendlies against Colombia and Brazil.

Atletico spurned a glorious chance to level at the start of the second half, with Jesus Navas clearing off the line from Antoine Griezmann and substitute Memphis Depay deflecting the rebound inches wide.

Griezmann sent an acrobatic effort over and Romero continued to threaten at the other end as both sides created good openings, but Sevilla held out for the victory.

Later Sunday champions Barcelona, third, host Granada.