Atletico Madrid defeats Real Madrid, as Sevilla holds back Villarreal

On Sunday, Atletico Madrid defeated Real Madrid 1-0 in a La Liga derby for the first time in six years, putting Diego Simeone’s team on the verge of earning Champions League qualifying.

Yannick Carrasco’s first-half penalty was enough to beat a much depleted Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, who used the opportunity to rest players following their stunning Champions League comeback against Manchester City on Wednesday.

Yannick Carrasco

With Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, and Thibaut Courtois on the bench for the already-crowned champions, Atletico Madrid took advantage, even though they squandered a slew of opportunities that made the game considerably more difficult than it needed to be.

With three games remaining, Atletico Madrid sits fourth, six points ahead of Real Betis in fifth. Their superior head-to-head record over Betis ensures that they will finish in the top four if Betis fails to win away at Valencia on Tuesday.

If Betis defeats Valencia, Atletico can secure their place by defeating Elche away on Wednesday.

“It’s critical for us to qualify, and we need one more victory in three games to do so,” said Atletico captain Koke. “We’ll get there if we keep working like this.”

Sevilla’s spot is also nearly certain after a 1-1 draw against Villarreal earlier on Sunday handed them a seven-point lead over Betis.

Atletico had not defeated Real Madrid in La Liga since 2016 and had not won at home since 2015. Their previous eight meetings against their city rivals had resulted in two goals and no victory.

Ending that streak would undoubtedly offer comfort to Atletico’s supporters and players, but the larger relief will be Champions League qualifying, which has been in question for the whole of what has been an erratic and dismal season.

Carlo Ancelotti made a slew of changes to his starting lineup, with just Toni Kroos, Casemiro, and Eder Militao remaining from the squad that stunned Manchester City.

It meant that Luka Jovic up forward, Eduardo Camavinga in midfield, and Jesus Vallejo at the rear all got rare starts, while Ukrainian Andriy Lunin made his first league appearance of the season in goal.

Lunin did nothing wrong, but no one stood out, with Camavinga struggling and Jovic coming in in the second half.

“We rested certain players, averted issues, and gave minutes to others who had less,” Ancelotti said. “This will be the case for the next several games.”

Angel Correa blasted an early attempt wide after a bad ball from Camavinga enabled Geoffrey Kondogbia to rob Kroos before Carrasco danced through but blazed wide.

Another wayward ball, this time from Marco Asensio in midfield, led to the goal, and as Matheus Cunha closed in on goal, he was forced out between Vallejo and Militao.

Atletico demanded a penalty, and although the referee first dismissed pleas, he changed his decision after reviewing the footage, with Vallejo found to be at fault. Carrasco hammered home the free-kick.

Jovic’s lone contribution was to strike Jan Oblak when the ball leaked out to him after Rodrygo sprinted in behind.

Without the second goal, the anxiety built, and as each new chance passed by, there was a growing fear that Real Madrid would take advantage.

After Nacho Fernandez gave the ball away, Carrasco shot over, and another Camavinga mistake offered Cunha an opportunity, but his attempt was saved.

For the visitors, Vinicius Junior, Modric, and Fede Valverde all came on, but the pattern continued as Antoine Griezmann dragged wide and Carrasco broke through, only to scrape the outside of the post.

Valverde and Vinicius both challenged Oblak in the last ten minutes, forcing him to put Asensio’s fizzing free-kick wide of the post. From six yards out, Nacho headed over Vinicius’ cross, but Atletico held on.

Sevilla vs Villarreal

Sevilla moved one step closer to finishing in the top four of La Liga as Jules Kounde’s 96th-minute equalizer rescued a 1-1 draw away at Villarreal.

Villarreal believed they had won it at La Ceramica when Giovani Lo Celso scored with four minutes left, but Sevilla struck a thrilling equalizer to strengthen their chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season.

Villarreal are making a late push for next season’s Europa League after reaching the Champions League semi-finals, but Kounde’s goal puts them three points behind Real Sociedad in sixth.

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