Soccer

Atletico miss chance to go top of La Liga with draw at Sevilla

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann reacts after missing a goal during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Sevilla FC at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on January 24, 2016. AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO / AFP / JAVIER SORIANO (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann reacts after missing a goal during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Sevilla FC at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on January 24, 2016. AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO / AFP / JAVIER SORIANO (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

Atletico Madrid missed a chance to regain first place in La Liga Sunday afternoon in Madrid when they could not break down a stubborn Sevilla and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

The result left Barcelona on top of the league table on goal difference a week ahead of their showdown with Atletico next Saturday in the Camp Nou. Barcelona also have a match in hand so next weekend's match could effectively be a title-decider.

Atletico, which had won four straight without always looking convincing, once again struggled to make real chances, the Antoine Griezmann-Luciano Vietto combination failing to click up front.

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Sevilla, reduced to 10 men on the hour, did not trouble Jan Oblak that often, but were more than competent at the back at a stadium where they have not won since 2008. The draw ended a five-match win streak in all competitions for the visitors, but allowed them to tie Eibar on 33 points for sixth in the table. That's final European spot available in Spain.

The pedestrian first half cannot have inspired Spanish national team boss Vicente del Bosque, who was in attendance at the Vicente Calderon. It passed with few highlights with neither keeper truly bothered.

Atletico was most dangerous when Juanfran found room to attack down the right flank, but when he tried to set up Griezmann in the 25th minute the French striker hammered his chance well past the near post.

Ever Banega had a shot blocked well by Saul Niguez in the 36th minute and Oblak did have to react to a deflection off defender Filipe Luis just before the break.

Diego Simeone tried to freshen his side, sending on Yannick Ferreira Carrasco for Augusto Fernandez at the interval. Carrasco had an immediate effect up front, adding options on the left and was unfortunate to have a cross cut off before Griezmann could reach it. Minutes later Griezmann met a fine cross from Koke only to see his header come back off the left post with Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico well beaten. That turned out to be Atletico's best chance.

On the hour Vitolo collected his second yellow card and therefore his marching orders after he fouled Vietto as the Atletico forward tried to attack along the left byeline. Vitolo slid in, took Vietto out and, despite his protests, Sevilla was reduced to 10 men for the final half-hour. Two minutes later Sevilla boss Unai Emery was sent to the stands by referee Ignacio Iglesias for his continued protests.

Sevilla did not fall back into a bunker, however, contuining to probe when the opportunity was there so Simeone decided it was time to give Jackson Martinez another chance up front in the 75th minute, taking off Saul.

That didn't change the equation either, Rico reacting when he had to in the closing minutes.

The last chance came when Atletico had a free kick at the top of the area but Carrasco hammered the free kick off the wall and over the bar.