MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid’s three-game winning streak in La Liga was halted by a goalless draw at Leganes on Saturday which dropped them to third in the standings.
That result allowed Sevilla to leapfrog Atletico into second after they beat luckless Malaga 2-0 in sweltering conditions that left some fans requiring medical attention.
Diego Simeone’s side, who were beaten 2-1 at home by Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, played with an unorthodox three-man defence and struggled to break down their in-form neighbours.
They could even have lost the game and needed three impressive saves from Jan Oblak to prevent substitute Nabil El Zhar from scoring in the second half, while Claudio Beauvue missed the target from a good position in the first.
Atletico only had one effort of note in either half - a low shot from Saul Niguez which was comfortably parried by the home side’s goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar, who after the break turned Diego Godin’s flicked header behind the post.
Sevilla are second on 16 points, one point ahead of Atletico.
Leaders Barcelona host Las Palmas on Sunday, while champions Real Madrid, who are sixth and seven points behind their arch rivals, play at home to Espanyol.
Simeone blamed the draw on his side feeling fatigued from the game with Chelsea, and said misfiring talisman Antoine Griezmann, who was taken off midway through the second half, needed more support from his team mates.
“We have gotten into bad habits expecting Griezmann to resolve all our attacking problems and so when he doesn’t score it’s difficult for us,” the Argentine manager told a news conference.
“The other forwards and the rest of the team could also help him get closer to the goal, create more chances and share the burden of work so it’s not always up to him.”
Sevilla, who were beaten 2-0 at Atletico in their previous outing, saw off struggling Malaga with two goals in the space of two minutes in the second half.
Ever Banega converted a penalty to break the deadlock in the searing afternoon heat in the 68th minute, and Luis Muriel struck his first goal at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium moments later.
The Colombian won the ball high in the Malaga half and burst into the box past the shellshocked visiting defenders to slip the ball under goalkeeper Roberto.
Despite winning the game, Sevilla coach Eduardo Berizzo criticised the league’s organisers for scheduling the game in the afternoon, when temperatures were as high as 32 degrees Celsius.
Some supporters required medical attention due to the heat while at halftime the stands behind the goals, which received the strongest glares from the sun, were empty as fans sought shelter in the concourses.
“The fans spent three hours in an oven, dealing with extremely high temperatures,” Berizzo said in a news conference.
“You don’t have to be very intelligent to realise that you can’t play at four in the afternoon in Seville at this time of year. Television companies should know that. It’s counter productive to play at this time.”
Pressure is mounting on Malaga boss Michel after his side sank to bottom with one point from seven games after Alaves snapped a six-game losing streak by winning 2-0 at Levante.
Elsewhere, Deportivo La Coruna earned a second win in three games by beating Getafe 2-1 and moving up to 15th.
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar