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Leagues: La Liga

Sevilla title challenge looks doomed after draw at Rayo

Seville (Spain) (AFP) – Sevilla’s fading La Liga title challenge could be over after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, giving Real Madrid the chance to move 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Madrid will take their lead into double figures if they win away at Real Mallorca on Monday, on the back of their incredible comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Sevilla have not looked like a team capable even of putting pressure on Madrid in recent weeks, let alone overhauling them. This was their sixth draw in their last eight league games.

Julen Lopetegui’s side host Real Sociedad next in La Liga before a visit to Barcelona, who are now eight points behind, with two games in hand. Atletico are five points back, having played the same number of games.

Sevilla might begin to shift focus to the Europa League, which stages its final at their own Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium this season. They beat West Ham 1-0 in the first leg of the last 16 on Thursday.

They have struggled for goals in recent weeks and missed chances again at Vallecas, even if they were unfortunate to have a penalty cancelled following a VAR review in the second half.

Rayo will hope a draw against the second-placed team in the league can be a turning point for them after six consecutive league defeats.

A brilliant start to the season had newly-promoted Rayo dreaming of Europe but a dreadful recent run has seen them drop to 13th, with nervousness growing about relegation.

Rayo’s Sergi Guardiola hit the crossbar in the first half after Sevilla failed to cope with a long punt downfield and then Bebe gave the home side the lead early in the second.

Bebe collected down the right and bundled over Sevilla’s Ludwig Augustinsson. Given the angle, a cross was expected but he unleashed towards the near post, catching Bono by surprise, the Sevilla goalkeeper unable to keep the shot out.

Sevilla equalised in the 63rd minute when Thomas Delaney crept behind Rayo’s Fran Garcia at the back post and then Rafa Mir was brought down by Alejandro Catena, the referee pointing to the spot. 

The tackle was clumsy but, after consulting the replay, the decision was reversed.

Rayo had some nervous moments late on as Anthony Martial’s sumptuous volley had to be tipped over and then Delaney’s header hit the post, with Lucas Ocampos unable to turn in the rebound.

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