MADRID (Reuters) – Atletico Madrid surrendered top spot in La Liga to Barcelona when they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to 10-man Sevilla in a fiercely contested La Liga clash on Sunday.
There was little to choose between the two teams at the Calderon for the first hour, with the best chance falling to Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann when he headed against a post in the 53rd minute.
Sevilla were rocked back when midfielder Vitolo earned a second caution and was sent off with around half an hour remaining and coach Unai Emery was dismissed from the bench for protesting the decision.
With a man extra, Atletico poured forward in search of a winner but the Europa League holders’ defence held firm, goalkeeper Sergio Rico pulling off a fine save to block a powerful Gabi strike eight minutes from time.
Atletico and Barca each have 48 points with just over half the season played but the champions, who have a game in hand and host Atletico next weekend, are ahead on goal difference.
Barca edged a 2-1 victory at Malaga on Saturday despite a poor first-half performance, Lionel Messi scoring the winner shortly after half-time.
Real Madrid are five points behind in third before their match at Real Betis later on Sunday.
Eibar missed a chance to climb above Celta Vigo into fifth when they surrendered an early lead and were beaten 5-2 at Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao.
Eibar have one of the cheapest squads in Spain’s top division yet the tiny club have outshone wealthier rivals, including Bilbao who they beat 2-0 in August, and ended the first half of the season in the European qualification places.
Sunday’s defeat snapped a four-match winning streak and left them in sixth, a point behind Celta, who fell 3-0 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Borja Baston put Eibar ahead in the fourth minute at the San Mames and Aritz Aduriz levelled with a spectacular volley eight minutes later.
Sabin Merino made it 2-1 to Bilbao with a 27th-minute header at a corner and Aymeric Laporte made sure the home side went in at half-time with a two-goal cushion with another header, this time from a free kick, in the 40th minute.
Baston pulled a goal back from the penalty spot five minutes into the second period and Aduriz scored his second and Bilbao’s fourth in the 53rd minute with another superb first-time strike, his 13th goal of the campaign.
Eibar defender Mauro Dos Santos put the ball into his own net 10 minutes from time.
Bilbao are eighth on 31 points, one behind Sevilla and two adrift of Eibar.
By Iain Rogers
(Editing by Alan Baldwin)