MADRID, Spain– Atletico Madrid slipped up in the race for La Liga’s top four on Sunday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom club Espanyol.
Saul Niguez volleyed in a stunning equaliser at the RCDE Stadium but Atletico were unable to find a winner as Stefan Savic’s first-half own-goal earned Espanyol a valuable point in their struggle against relegation.
The result is less useful for Atletico, who sit fourth in the table but will be overtaken if Getafe win away at Mallorca later on Sunday. Real Sociedad are only a point behind and also have a game in hand.
Espanyol stay 20th but are now only five points adrift of safety.
After their excellent victory at home to Liverpool in the Champions League, Atletico appeared to be building some momentum when they defeated Villarreal 3-1 five days later.
But Diego Simeone’s side have stumbled against the league’s lower teams this season and so it proved again, as Espanyol dug deep for a deserved share of the spoils.
Atletico take on fellow top-four hopefuls Sevilla next weekend and Simeone will have to decide to what extent he keeps one eye on the second leg at Anfield three days later.
His team can hardly afford a loss against Sevilla, who are now third after they beat Osasuna 3-2 earlier on Sunday, thanks to a 93rd-minute winner from January signing Youssef En-Nesyri.
Espanyol took the lead in the 24th minute when Savic turned in Wu Lei’s cross at the near post and they might have doubled their advantage had Atletico’s goalkeeper Jan Oblak not made a brilliant save by tipping Victor Sanchez’s thundering effort onto the crossbar.
Instead, Atletico equalised shortly after half-time when Saul took the ball out of the air on the edge of the box and banged a wonderful volley into the far corner.
Joao Felix almost grabbed a winner when his deflected cross came off Diego Lopez and hit the post while Alvaro Morata was unable to turn in the rebound from the angle.
Sevilla looked like they had thrown away victory when Osasuna came from two goals down to level after Aridane scored and Roberto Torres converted a penalty.
But En-Nesyri, who had also struck the opener before Lucas Ocampos made it two, scored his second of the game and Sevilla’s third in injury time to snatch a dramatic winner.