Atlético de Madrid maintained the pace with other title contenders with a comeback 1-3 win over Villarreal, while Sevilla were held to their fifth consecutive draw 1-1 by Real Betis in local derby in La Liga on Sunday.
With Girona, Real Madrid, and Barcelona all winning their respective matches to occupy the top three places, respectively, Atlético could barely afford a slip against Villarreal at the Cívitas Metropolitano.
But they went 0-1 behind owing to Gerard Moreno’s 20th-minute strike for Villarreal and had goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank for not conceding more before Belgian Axel Witsel scored the equalizer in the added time of the first half.
Atlético had to wait until the 80th minute to take the lead in the game with a goal from Antoine Griezmann, who scored his 169th club goal from a Marcos Llorente pass.
The Frenchman with the goal has equaled Adrián Escudero as the second Atleti top scorer of all time and is now only four goals away from reaching Luis Aragonés, who scored the highest173 goals.
Brazilian Samu Lino, after brilliant action by the youth squad Pablo Barrios, finished to complete the comeback for Atlético and help coach Diego Simeone celebrate his recent contract renewal for three years.
It was the record 15th consecutive win for Atletico at home, surpassing their run of 14 victories in a row at the Vicente Calderon Stadium between May 2012 and February 2013.
They remained fourth with 28 points after the win, behind Girona (34 points), Real Madrid (32 points) and Barcelona (30 points), with the match against Sevilla pending.
Betis dominated the Seville derby but had to remain content with their third consecutive draw against their local rivals.
Serbian goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic saved Sevilla on quite a few occasions, and just as it appeared they were gaining some ground in the match, they conceded as Ayoze Pérez scored for Betis in the 72nd minute.
Croatian Ivan Rakitic saved the day when Sevilla leveled the score in the 79th minute with a superb strike from outside the box, but it could help the side only settle for their fifth consecutive draw at La Liga, keeping them 13th in the table with 12 points from as many matches.
Betis, who wasted their chance to record their first win at the Sánchez Pizjuán after five years, stayed in seventh place with 21 points in contention for a place in the European competition. EFE
By Nadeem Faisal Baiga