Celta draw leaves Atleti waiting for Champions League ‘objective’

Madrid (AFP) – Atletico Madrid will have to wait to clinch a place in next season’s Champions League after being held to a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo on Tuesday.

Alvaro Morata scored in the opening minute before Francisco Beltran equalised for the hosts the other side of the break.

The result leaves Atleti four points away from qualifying for the top tier of European football with three games remaining and Celta are seven points clear of the relegation zone.

“It’s a difficult ground to visit, Celta play good football, where they are in the table isn’t justified by their football,” Morata told Movistar.

“We’re ready now to finish our objective of third place. What we have to do is achieve our objective as quick as we can.”

Victory could have seen Atletico seal a top-four spot this week if other results had gone their way.

Diego Simeone made three changes from the side which beat Real Mallorca on Friday with injured attackers Joao Felix and Yannick Carrasco having to sit out the trip to Galicia.

Celta coach Oscar Garcia chose to name Nolito on the bench despite the winger’s effort in Saturday’s draw at Real Betis.

Morata opened the scoring after 55 seconds to claim his third goal in two games.

The former Juventus forward slotted home from an Angel Correa cross in a perfect start for the visitors.

Their best chance to double their lead came just before the break but Correa was unable to connect cleanly to Marcos Llorente’s low pass.

Celta equalised five minutes into the second half with a seemingly lucky effort as Beltran caught Jan Oblak off guard.

Brais Mendez found Beltran in the box and the central midfielder lobbed the Atleti goalkeeper with a volleyed shot which spun off his shin.

Simeone threw on World Cup winner Thomas Lemar, who is yet to score this season, in the final 20 minutes as his side searched for a winner.

Lemar had the best opportunity to clinch the three points but Ruben Blanco parried the France attacker’s drive away to highlight Simeone’s lack of attacking options with Felix and Carrasco injured and Diego Costa suspended.

– Lee strikes late on –

Earlier, South Korean teenager Lee Kang-in scored with two minutes to play to move Valencia to within a point of the Europa League places in a 2-1 win over Real Valladolid.

Lee, 19, clinched his side’s first victory since Albert Celades was sacked earlier this month and sent his outfit up to eighth, just behind Real Sociedad in the spot for the qualifying rounds for next season’s continental competition.

Uruguay’s Maxi Gomez opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, finishing tidily at the back post from a low Kevin Gameiro cross.

Victor Garcia, making his maiden first-team appearance of the season having spent the campaign with the reserves, equalised for Valladolid just after the break.

Midfielder Garcia half-volleyed home a deflected shot after 100 seconds of the second half.

Lee claimed his second goal of the campaign with less than two minutes of normal time remaining.

His whipped shot from outside the box beat Antonito to end up in the bottom corner.

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