Barcelona: Villarreal won its first away match of the season by beating Sevilla 2-1 on Sunday from Javier Camunas’ late goal, exacerbating the Andalusian club’s struggles in the Spanish league.
Sevilla was caught outnumbered on a counterattack, allowing Camunas to bend a shot into the left side of the net for Villarreal’s 81st-minute winner at Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.
Sevilla had been aiming for a top-four finish to return to the Champions League come next season but hasn’t won in seven straight league matches to slide into the lower half of the table.
Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 with third-place Valencia, staying undefeated in five games since former player Diego Simeone took over as coach.
Borja Valero gave Villarreal the lead in the 23rd minute, the midfielder passing to Angel Lopez wide on the right flank and then racing through the middle of Sevilla’s passive defense to volley the cross beyond the goalkeeper.
Moments after Sevilla forward Frederic Kanoute’s header was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Diego Lopez, the hosts equalized in the 33rd when Villarreal midfielder Bruno Soriano deflected Jesus Navas’ hard blast into his own net.
Looking to spark his stagnant attack, Sevilla coach Marcelino Garcia sent on forward Jose Antonio Reyes for a defender after the interval. But Lopez made a number of saves to deny Sevilla, and Villarreal went up the other end to score a late goal.
“I don’t think the changes were suicidal,” said Garcia, who is under growing pressure to turn Sevilla’s season around. “I am not going to resign. I will work until the people who make the decisions know what to do with my future.”
Villarreal, which is unbeaten in its last three games under new coach Jose Molina, climbed out of the drop zone with its first win in 11 away games in the league this season.
Atletico showed more scoring intent in the first half at Vicente Calderon stadium. But Valencia’s physical play disrupted the hosts’ attack and limited them to an early header from Adrian Lopez that goalkeeper Diego Alves did well to parry.
Valencia defender Adil Rami cleared a close-range shot by Atletico striker Radamel Falcao off the goal line in the clearest opportunity to break the deadlock in the 65th.
Atletico captain Gabi Fernandez said his team lamented missing an opportunity to move into fourth place, but that there would be “more chances to do so.”
“The team has high morale because we gave it our all on the pitch today,” the midfielder said.
Valencia, which visits Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday, extended its winless run in the league to five games.
Earlier in northern Spain, Sporting Gijon was held to a 1-1 home draw by Osasuna on coach Inaki Tejada’s debut, and last-place Zaragoza remained winless for 14 straight games after squandering an early lead to fall 2-1 at home to Rayo Vallecano.
Sporting went ahead at a rainy El Molinon stadium in the 32nd minute when midfielder Carmelo Gonzalez volleyed in a cross from Roberto Canella, but Osasuna striker Dejan Lekic turned a header past goalkeeper Juan Colinas to level the score in the 78th.
“I am the coach until they tell me otherwise, and I’m not thinking about anything besides next week’s game,” said Tejada, who took over from Manolo Preciado after he was fired earlier this week.
At La Romareda stadium, Miguel “Michu” Perez scored his 10th goal of the season in the 82nd to cap Rayo’s comeback, which was started by new signing Diego Costa seven minutes earlier after Helder Postiga had put Zaragoza in front with an acrobatic strike in the first half.
On Saturday, leader Real Madrid edged out Getafe 1-0 to remain seven points clear of Barcelona, which beat Real Sociedad 2-1. Also, it was: Mallorca 1, Real Betis 0; Athletic Bilbao 3, Espanyol 3 and Levante 1, Racing Santander 1.
Malaga plays Granada on Monday.