Dubai: On a day dominated by Valencia saying they felt threatened into resuming their interrupted game after an alleged racial insult, Atletico Madrid risk seeing their once-comfortable Spanish league lead cut to a point after losing to Sevilla.
Valencia stopped playing at Cadiz on Sunday and walked off the field before half-time after defender Mouctar Diakhaby said he was insulted by Cadiz defender Juan Cala.
Fourth-place Sevilla beat Atletico 1-0, opening the door for Barcelona to inch closer to the top with a win at home against relegation-threatened Valladolid on Monday.
The loss left Diego Simeone’s team only three points ahead of second-place Real Madrid, who beat Eibar 2-0 to tighten the race for the title entering the final stretch. Barcelona now depend on their own results to lift the trophy, as they will host Atletico in May.
Sevilla strengthened their hold on the final qualification spot for the Champions League with the home victory against Atletico.
Marcos Acuna netted the winner with a header in the 70th minute. Lucas Ocampos missed a penalty kick for the hosts eight minutes into the match at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
“To beat the leader you have to do a lot of things well,” Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui said. Sevilla extended their unbeaten streak in the league to four games, while Atletico lost for the first time in five league matches. “We have to keep working hard and increase our intensity,” Simeone said. “The Spanish league is always tough until the very end.”
At Cadiz, Cala denied any wrongdoing and was defended by teammates and coach Alvaro Cervera.
The team resumed the game after more than 20 minutes. Valencia said its players felt threatened after the referee told them about the potential consequences of not returning to the field - which would be the likely loss of points. “The players were forced to play after the threat of punishment,” the club said in a statement. They had earlier said the decision to return was made after a request to do so by Diakhaby, who is black.
Cadiz said in a statement they condemned racism by anybody. “The club cannot comment on incidents that arise between players during the course of the play,” they said. Cadiz scored late to win the match 2-1.
“Today is a sad day for our sport,” Valencia said. “We didn’t lose only a match, we lost the respect and the spirit of soccer and of sport.”
Celta Vigo won 3-1 at last-place Alaves with Nolito, Iago Aspas and Santi Mina all scoring. Celta played with 10 men from the 54th after defender Jeison Murillo was sent off with a second yellow card.
Relegation-threatened Elche drew 1-1 with fifth-placed Real Betis.