MADRID: A stunning four-goal blitz in 10 minutes allowed Sevilla to leapfrog Barcelona into second in La Liga on Saturday as Luciano Vietto scored twice in a 4-1 win over Malaga. Atletico Madrid registered a first win in four games as Saul Niguez’s excellent 25-yard strike earned a nervy 1-0 victory against Las Palmas. However, Atletico end the year in sixth after wins for Villarreal and Real Sociedad at Sporting Gijon and Granada respectively maintained their one-point lead over Diego Simeone’s men.
Sevilla edge a point ahead of Barca and to within five of league leaders Real Madrid, who are not in league action this weekend as they face Kashima Antlers in the Club World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan, on Sunday.
Barca, though, can reclaim second when they host Espanyol in Sunday’s Catalan derby (1945GMT).
Sevilla killed Malaga off with a series of brilliant first-half team moves as Vietto slotted home Steven N’Zonzi’s through ball for the opener before being left with the simplest of tasks to double the lead three minutes later from Vitolo’s determined run and cross.
The goals continued to flow as Wissam Ben Yedder added a third before Vitolo made it four before half-time.
Sevilla defender Adil Rami got himself needlessly sent-off for two quickfire bookings just after the hour mark and Sandro Ramirez netted a consolation for Malaga with a fine free-kick.
Atletico net much-needed win -
Earlier, Atletico ended what coach Diego Simeone called an “extraordinary year” after reaching the Champions League final in May on a high thanks to Niguez’s solitary strike.
“Taking into account where we have come from, we have ended an extraordinary year,” said Simeone.
“I think any fan of Atletico Madrid has to be proud of a fantastic year and we finished it off with a very solid performance.”
Niguez also had the best effort of a bright start from the hosts as he volleyed off the inside of the post on 15 minutes.
Atletico’s struggles have coincided with Antoine Griezmann’s loss of form as the Frenchman, who finished third in the running for the Ballon d’Or this week, was held scoreless for a ninth consecutive league game. Las Palmas dominated possession throughout with their neat short-passing but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock before half-time was an outrageous hit from fully 40 yards by centre-back Mauricio Lemos that came back off the crossbar.
The game swung in two moments at either end just two minutes apart at the start of the second-half.
Firstly, Atletico ‘keeper Miguel Angel Moya made a vital save from Roque Mesa on his first La Liga start of the season in the absence of the injured Jan Oblak.
Niguez then pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the Las Palmas area to curl home his first league goal of the season.
Villarreal, fresh from beating Atletico 2-0 on Monday, remain a point ahead of last season’s Champions League finalists in fourth as goals from Jonathan dos Santos, Nicola Sansone and Alexandre Pato secured a deserved three points in Gijon.
Real Sociedad are just behind Villarreal on goal difference as second-half goals from Jon Bautista and Juanmi sealed a 2-0 victory away to Granada. — AFP