Antoine Griezmann preserved Atletico Madrid’s status as chief challengers to Barcelona in La Liga on Sunday after his stunning free-kick earned them a 1-1 draw at Sevilla.
Sevilla would have leapfrogged Atletico into second with a win at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and were favourites to do so when Wissam Ben Yedder put them ahead eight minutes before the break.
Griezmann however produced a moment of magic by whipping home his fifth goal in as many games on the stroke of half-time to ensure a thrilling, and at times bad-tempered contest that featured 12 yellow cards ended with the spoils shared and Atletico two points behind leaders Barça.
Real Madrid’s stuttering form has left these two closest to Barça at the top and a riveting final 10 minutes highlighted how hard they were intent on pushing the reigning champions.
However, the Catalans will likely be happiest with the result. They sit ahead of Atletico and four points away from Sevilla, with the chance to extend their lead at Getafe later on Sunday.
Sevilla exploded out of the blocks and the excellent Jesus Navas led the way. Navas turns 34 this year but his speed over short distances seems as sharp ever and Atletico were left chasing his heels throughout.
He delivered an array of crosses in the opening 20 minutes, with Roque Mesa and Sergio Escudero both arriving at the back post but failing to finish.
In between, Griezmann tested Tomas Vaclik with a bending effort from range but Sevilla remained in charge, Andre Silva’s shot hitting the inside of the post and flashing across a goal left vacant by the diving Jan Oblak.
The hosts got their reward in the 38th minute, and Navas was the instigator again. His cross was feathered by Daniel Carrico but still needed Ben Yedder to swivel and sweep it home with his left foot.
Ben Yedder might have made it two just after but his lifted finish met Oblak and instead Atletico levelled with the final action of a breathless opening half.
Atletico were awarded a free-kick in prime Griezmann territory and the World Cup winner struck it superbly with his left foot, flashing it across the rooted Vaclik and into the top right-hand corner.
Sevilla continued to have the better of the second half but chances were harder to come by. One Navas cross led to Ben Yedder flashing wide, while another had to be palmed away by Oblak.
Atletico survived, and could have won it in the last 10 minutes as Griezmann skipped clear but his finish was saved by Vaclik. Sevilla could have too snatched the points but Oblak pushed away Joris Gnagnon’s thundering drive.