Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid
With champions Barcelona going down to a shock 3-1 defeat at Levante, this tea-time clash was the perfect opportunity for one of Sevilla or Atletico Madrid to go top of the La Liga table – at least temporarily.
It was also a milestone for Diego Simeone. Could his team create more La Liga 2019 highlights or would it be left to Sevilla to leapfrog their opponents?
In the end, the answer was neither.
Highlights of the game
With both Barca and Real Madrid failing to put forward a convincing case, this game represented an opportunity for these sides to be among the main front runners.
Having said that, the La Liga 2019 betting odds remain unconvinced by both these sides’ ability to last the pace and, it has hardly been the best of starts to the season for Los Rojiblancos.
Atletico’s last five La Liga games had delivered four draws and one win, picking up just seven points from the 15 on offer.
In fact, one football website this week gave them advice on ways to improve, pinpointing a number of factors, including the fact they have only tended to hit the ground running after the interval.
Indeed, in five of the 11 games they have played so far this season, they haven’t managed to score a single first-half goal.
That was a statistic Simeone was only too well aware of, and a point my SBOBET colleague highlighted in the build-up to this fixture.
They arrived at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan, one of those places that’s never easy to visit, looking to reverse that trend.
The injuries to Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez meant that Mario Hermoso and Felipe Monteiro were the only centre-backs in the travelling squad, which was also without Joao Felix as he recovers from injury.
Sevilla, level on points but hammered the last time they faced a title challenger, included Oliver Torres in their starting line-up, facing his former team for the first time since his departure back in 2017.
Since coach Julen Lopetegui managed to lure him back to Spain, Torres has played all but three of Sevilla’s 15 games so far and scored a couple of goals.
And he would have appreciated the play which led to the opening goal in the 28th minute.
Éver Banega delivered a free-kick into the box and there was Franco Vázquez to head into the bottom left corner.
Koke and Angel Correa had gone close early on for Atletico as they aimed to end that poor first-half sequence in front of goal.
Koke also tested Tomas Vaclik in the Sevilla goal as the half drew to a close, but the hosts, who missed the chance to go top of the table in midweek although gained a creditable point at Valencia, went in at the break a goal to the good.
Diego Costa, who has a fine scoring record against Sevilla, was introduced for the second half along with Santiago Arias – on for Thomas Lemar and Kieran Trippier.
It seemed an early spell of pressure had been rewarded within nine minutes as Costa headed home a Correa cross only for VAR to intervene and rule it out.
The other substitute then provided his own decisive moment as Arias’ ball was headed in by another former Chelsea man, Alvaro Morata.
It was a deserved equaliser from the visitors and reward for their bright start to the second period.
Renan Lodi then went close to putting them in front. The momentum was most definitely with them when VAR intervened again, this time in their favour as Nemanja Gudelj was adjudged to have fouled Koke in the box.
Up stepped Costa and the smart money would have been on the Spaniard putting Atletico in front, yet Vaclik kept out his spot-kick.
That seemed to give Sevilla added impetus. Jan Oblak was the busier goalkeeper in the closing stages, saving a Lucas Ocampos header and a Gudelj strike before Costa and Morata saw efforts blocked.
Neither side could grab a winner and the point apiece merely added to the feeling that these teams are not yet ready to challenge for the La Liga title.
This was Simeone’s 300th La Liga game in charge – a statistic few could have predicted when he arrived in December 2011.
He is the fifth coach in La Liga history to hit 300 games with the same team, drawing level with the legendary Johan Cruyff.
In matchday 36 this season, he is due to reach a total of 322 with John Toshack, who accumulated that number during three spells with Real Sociedad.
Vázquez has scored more headers this season (three) than in each of his previous three seasons.
Morata has matched his best streak scoring since four games with Real Madrid in October 2016.
It’s another busy week for both these clubs before the international break.
Sevilla are in Luxembourg to play Dudelange in the Europa League and then face Real Betis in La Liga next Sunday.
Bayer Leverkusen await Atletico in Germany in midweek before they are back on home soil domestically against Espanyol next Sunday.
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