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La Liga

La Liga Weekend: Sevilla Hold Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid Sevilla
Luciano Vietto of Club Atletico de Madrid is tackled by Ever Banega of Sevilla FC during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Vicente Calderon Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.

It was a drama-filled match in the second half on Sunday at the Vincente Calderon as a ten-man Sevilla pulled out every trick in the book to stop Atletico Madrid from scoring a goal and getting their three points.

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Atleti had a somewhat slower first half, but dominated in the second. In fact the teamwork clicked so well and their momentum was so good that Sevilla’s main line of defense was to continually halt the play and disupt the momentum. The referee became annoyed with the diving and hamstring pulls and falling and when he showed Vitolo a second yellow after bringing Luciano Vietto down, things erupted.

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Vitolo was quite charming in that he refused to go to the stands; he stuck his head up out of the stairwell and watched the game. Later, he tweeted a most sportsmanlike message:

(“Proud of this team for fighting till the end and get a point in a difficult field.

Unai Emery did an uncanny impression of a raging Argentine manager named Diego Simeone when he lost it, screamed at the fourth official, and was sent to the stands for his trouble.

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Overall, Sevilla played beautifully with what they had to prevent Atletico from maintaining the top place in the league. For Atletico, the choice to put Vietto alongside Antoine Griezmann up front was a decent one, given the real only other choice is the lump named Jackson Martinez, who, when finally subbed in, stood around a lot. His failure to score that crucial goal was enough for me to want him to go, please, or else start moving his legs, stat.

If Atleti will continue with the title challenge this season, they simply must have reliable goal scorers. Griezmann is, but he isn’t a striker who necessarily presses.

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Barcelona fans like to crow about being on top of the league–they won just 2-1 over Málaga on Saturday to put them equal with Atletico on top; leading on goal differential–but to be honest, is it such an accomplishment for them? It’s a better story that Atleti are also top, as is the fight they put up on Sunday and how good Sevilla was at halting that. It was Spanish football at its best.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, managed only to eke out a single point in a draw with Real Betis. The Real Madrid PR machine is all about promoting how Zinedine Zidane can outplay his own players on the training field these days, but when Real Madrid start winning all their matches, they can celebrate.

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Meanwhile, to round out the top four, Villarreal missed a chance to gain on Real Madrid by drawing 2-2 with Espanyol, and both Valencia and Real Sociedad have failed to make strides up the table since bringing on new head coaches this season.

As for the bottom of the table, Levante got a point and now have 17 total, winning 3-2 over Las Palmas, who sit in 18th place. Ouch, Las Palmas. Ouch.

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