Atlético Madrid bolstered their status as the first favorite in the Spanish League title race on Saturday after beating Barcelona and watching Real Madrid fall behind.
Under coach Diego Simeone, Atlético knew what it was like to beat Barcelona in the Champions League and Copa del Rey, but were denied a victory over Lionel Messi’s side in the domestic league in 20 consecutive attempts.
His first win against Barcelona in the competition since 2010 left him tied on points with league leaders Real Sociedad before the Basque Country club traveled to Cadiz on Sunday.
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona were left languishing in 10th place nine points behind. Atlético and Barcelona have games in progress due to their late start to the season after making the Champions League quarter-finals in August.
“It is true that we had not beaten them for years, even though we were close. It’s the reward to work for this victory, ”said Simeone, without giving up his mantra of going forward“ game by game ”.
“We always keep the same philosophy in good times and bad times: we focus on the next game,” he said.
The long-awaited victory came after a Madrid side weakened by injuries and coronavirus infections dropped points for the second consecutive round when they drew 1-1 at Villarreal.
In addition to Barcelona’s injury problems, defense leader Gerard Pique suffered what his club called a sprained right knee early in the second half when Ángel Correa fell on his leg and made it flex towards inside.
Pique immediately called for help. He cautiously stepped away from his own power, but he looked in tears.
Barcelona also lost Sergi Roberto due to an apparent right thigh injury in the dying minutes.
Barcelona were already without Ansu Fati for four months after needing surgery on his left knee last week.
Two superb touches from Yannick Carrasco proved to be the key for Atlético to break their decade of frustration against Barca.
After passing close by Saúl Ñíguez and Marcos Llorente, the game at Wanda Metropolitano swung in favor of the hosts when Correa jumped on a bad pass from Pique and threw the ball forward for Carrasco smashing the left flank. Marc-André ter Stegen rushed to disrupt the counterattack, but Carrasco used a skillful touch to push the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs. His next touch sent the ball well outside the box into the open net.
“The way we conceded the goal is worrying,” Koeman said. “A great team can’t concede a goal like that, in the 47th minute and with the ball.”
Lionel Messi tried to rally his team with crosses for Clément Lenglet and Antoine Griezmann, whose headers were easily saved by Jan Oblak.
Otherwise, Atlético played the game they love: get their hands on the opposing attack and let the clock do the rest.
“The league is still long and there are still a lot of games left, but this loss requires us to have a long winning streak,” Koeman said.
Without the leadership of Sergio Ramos and the touch of goal from Karim Benzema, Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid had to keep a point at El Estadio de la Cerámica.
Madrid got off to a promising start when rarely used striker Mariano Díaz headed well to a Dani Carvajal cross three minutes after kick-off.
Madrid controlled the rest of the first half, but Unai Emery’s Villarreal improved after the restart.
The equalizer came when Courtois swept Samuel Chukwueze off his feet into the box trying to play a ball. Gerard Moreno stepped in to convert the resulting penalty in the 76th.
“Drawing with the defending champions may leave you satisfied, but the way we played left me feeling like the game was ours to win,” Emery said.
Villarreal is in third place at one point in the pace.
Madrid were missing Ramos, Benzema and Federico Valverde due to injury. Casemiro, Éder Militão and Luka Jovic were not available after testing positive for the coronavirus. But he still had a starting 11, including Eden Hazard, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, and Zidane used Francisco “Isco” Alarcón and Marco Asensio as substitutes.
Madrid, who lost 4-1 to Valencia in the previous round before last week’s international break, remained in fourth place with one match underway.
SIX GOALS IN SEVILLE
Two late goals gave Sevilla a 4-2 victory over Celta Vigo to put the brakes on manager Eduardo Coudet’s debut.
Attractive first-half football ended 2-2. Jules Kounde and Youssef En-Nesyri scored for Sevilla, and Celta’s Iago Aspas and Manuel “Nolito” Agudo took advantage of a few sloppy guards from Tomas Vaclik to complete two lost balls.
Vaclik turned down Santi Mina from close before Sevilla pushed for a winner.
Sergio Escudero’s long shot deflected a defender and buckled Celta goalkeeper Ruben Blanco in the 85th. Munir El Haddadi scored a fourth goal after his strike also hit a defender to deceive Blanco.
Moreover, Elche drew 1-1 at Levante.