Madrid (AFP) – Sevilla’s La Liga title hopes suffered a fresh blow on Saturday as they were held 1-1 at home by lowly Leganes.
Atletico Madrid are now just five points adrift of Sevilla in third as Antoine Griezmann headed home the winner in a vital 1-0 victory at Granada for Diego Simeone’s men.
Sevilla continued to struggle ahead of their return to Champions League action against Leicester City in midweek after a 1-1 draw at Alaves on Monday.
Gabriel Pires fired Leganes into a deserved early lead after just three minutes at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Stevan Jovetic levelled for Sevilla just before half-time, but it was Leganes who had the better chances in the second half to take all three points.
“The team is very rushed and anxious when we can’t create chances. Very well-organised teams can cause damage,” said Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli.
Two dropped points leave third-placed Sevilla still three points adrift of La Liga leaders Barcelona, who now also have a game in hand.
Sampaoli had left out a host of first-team regulars with one eye on their trip to Leicester on Tuesday.
However, the Argentine warned that Sevilla’s 2-1 first-leg lead over the English champions won’t be enough to see them into the quarter-finals unless they dramatically improve their performance in midweek.
“With a performance like that we will find it very difficult to get through in the Champions League. They are strong opponents who will punish mistakes.”
Leganes capitalised on a sluggish start by the hosts as Pires backheeled Nabil El Zhar’s low cross into the far corner.
On-loan Inter Milan striker Jovetic was the only Sevilla player to escape with any credit as he finished off a fine move for his fourth goal since joining in January.
Leganes, though, should have retaken the lead when Miguel Angel Guerrero volleyed wide with the goal gaping early in the second period.
And substitute Luciano was unlucky when he nearly caught Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico off his line with a clever chip that floated just wide.
Atletico opened up a four-point gap on Real Sociedad in the battle for the fourth Champions League spot as they eventually wore down Granada at Nuevo Los Carmenes.
Yannick Carrasco headed inches wide for the visitors with the best chance of the first half.
Carrasco was then denied by Guillermo Ochoa at the start of the second period, while Griezmann fired wastefully into the side-netting on his favoured left foot.
However, Griezmann made amends six minutes from time when he headed Koke’s cross into the far corner.
Granada were then reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when midfielder Mubarak Wakaso was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Elsewhere, Sporting Gijon remain rooted in the relegation zone as Munir El Haddadi’s header six minutes from time rescued Valencia a point from a 1-1 draw at Mestalla earlier on Saturday.
And former Marseille coach Michel got off to a losing start as Malaga boss as Edgar Mendez struck in stoppage time to hand 10-man Alaves a 2-1 win at La Rosaleda.