Barcelona, April 5 (IANS) La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at Sevilla to give hope to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the title race.
Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak saved Lucas Ocampos’s penalty early on but was beaten by Marcos Acuna’s second-half header on Sunday, DPA news reports.
Atletico are now three points clear of Real Madrid in second, on 66 points from 29 games.
Barcelona, third, face Real Valladolid on Monday and if they win will only be a point behind the Rojiblancos with nine games remaining.
Sevilla earned a penalty in the seventh minute when Saul stood on Ivan Rakitic’s foot as he dribbled, but Oblak produced a fine stop to deny Ocampos, who also missed a penalty against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final.
Julen Lopetegui’s side, fourth, had the better of an intense match but could not make the breakthrough until the 70th minute.
Sevilla took the lead when Acuna headed home Jesus Navas’s cross but Atletico complained about an Ocampos handball in the buildup.
Replays showed that the Argentine did block Trippier’s cross with his arm but VAR did not rule the goal out.
Hermoso had a fine chance to equalise moments later but smashed over the bar when well placed and Angel Correa should have scored in stoppage time but Sevilla goalkeeper Bono made a fine save to deny the forward.
“It’s a tough defeat to take, the team tried everything,” said Atletico midfielder Koke. “The first half was really tough for us.
“We struggled to get the ball back and keep it. We’re hurt, it’s a tough day for everything that happened on the pitch. It was a clear handball (for Sevilla’s goal).
“We have to fight against everything, (but) we still depend on ourselves (in the title race).”
Earlier Cadiz earned a late 2-1 win over Valencia but the game was marred by an alleged racist comment
With the score tied at 1-1 in the 30th minute, Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby clashed with Juan Cala.
The referee booked him and he walked off, accompanied by his team-mates, with the club’s Twitter account reporting he had suffered a racist comment.
Los Che players came out without Diakhaby, substituted for Hugo Guillamon, and carried on the game without him, with the centre back watching on from the stands.
Cala, who had sent Cadiz ahead before Kevin Gameiro’s equalizer, was substituted at half-time for Marcos Mauro, who scored the 88th-minute winner.
“The team have held a meeting and decided to continue the game, in order to fight for the honour of the club, but denounce racism of any kind,” said Valencia on Twitter.
“We offer our complete backing to Diakhaby. The player, who had received a racial insult, requested that his teammates return to the pitch.
“We support you Mouctar. No to racism.”
Valencia defender Jose Gaya says his team were threatened with defeat if they did not continue playing.
“Diakhaby told us that he was insulted and from Valencia, we condemn that,” said Gaya on Movistar.
“We left the field for that, but they told us we had to come back out, if not they would take three points off us and maybe more,” he said, though it was unclear who he was referring to.
“Diakhaby told us to come back out and that’s why we did. He wanted us to. Without his permission, we would not have done it,” Gaya said. “He could not come back out. He was gutted. It’s a very ugly insult, I won’t say it.”
A flurry of first-half goals from Nolito, Iago Aspas and Santi Mina helped Celta Vigo earned a 3-1 win at bottom of the table Alaves, while Elche, 17th, came from behind to draw 1-1 against fifth-place Real Betis.