Atletico split points in draw vs. Bilbao; Deportivo hold Villarreal

Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin (L) vies with Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Iago Herrerin (R) and defender Mikel San Jose (C).


Atletico Madrid were forced to settle for a goalless draw against Athletic Bilbao after having two goals incorrectly disallowed for offside.

Antoine Griezmann had an effort chalked off in either half but he was clearly onside when he scored in the second period – as was Tiago Mendes when he found the net shortly afterwards, but again the linesman denied the hosts. Athletic were reduced to 10 men in injury time when Unai Bustinza was sent off for two bookable offences, but there was no time for the hosts to take advantage and they failed to score at the Calderon for just the second league match all season.

Diego Simeone’s side stay third in the table while Athletic temporarily move up to seventh, one point ahead of Malaga who host Elche on Sunday. In contrast to the meeting between these two sides in Bilbao earlier this season, Atletico were comfortably the better side but lacked sparkle in attack and failed to make the most of their chances.

They had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Fernando Torres was grabbed by Xabier Etxeita at the far post but the former Chelsea man was shown a yellow card for aggressively protesting against the referee’s decision. Moments earlier Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerin blocked a headed effort from Raul Garcia following a corner, and at the end of the half Griezmann had a goal correctly ruled offside.

Athletic striker Kike Sola nearly gave the visitors the lead 10 minutes into the second period but turned Mikel San Jose’s shot a few feet wide of the far post, and a couple of minutes later Etxeita shot over the bar from six yards following a corner. These were rare opportunities for the Basques, however, and Atletico should have taken the lead in the 67th minute when Griezmann turned in a cross but was incorrectly ruled offside.

Tiago was also in a legal position when he started his run before knocking in Arda Turan’s cross but the linesman again held up his flag, to the fury of the home fans. Atletico could still have won the game late on, but neither Griezmann nor Joao Miranda could finish their chances.

Deportivo La Coruna 1, Villarreal 1


Deportivo La Coruna and Villarreal played out a 1-1 draw on Saturday night, with the visitors the happier of the two with the outcome.

Villarreal, chasing a European spot, edged further ahead in sixth thanks to their share, with Jaume Costa having put them ahead. Deportivo remain in the bottom three, though, and this point – earned by Celso Borges equaliser – puts them a point closer to safety but they will consider this two points dropped in their bid to stay up.

Desperate for the victory, Depor started the brighter of the sides and registered the first serious effort when Oriol Riera cut in and fizzed in a strike that was rebuffed by Juan Carlos. Villarreal responded with a right-footed drive from Tomas Pina that was charged down, and then Mario Gaspar befell the same outcome.

Depor returned to the front foot and Riera’s flick-on fell to Luisinho but he could not keep his effort on target, while Juanfran was also errant with a strike from the edge of the box. After a relatively sedate first half the game sprung into life shortly after the break as Villarreal opened the scoring.

Forty-eight minutes were on the clock when Costa took aim from the edge of the area, beating Fabricio and putting the visitors ahead.

It would be a short-lived lead, though. Just two minutes later Depor went down the other end and Borges slammed in an 18-yarder of his own to level things up. Villarreal hunted a second and Luciano Vietto had a drive kept out, while Lucas Perez was denied for the home side.

But when Vietto was off target again with seconds remaining, that proved to be the end of the action.