Atletico wastes golden opportunity

Atletico Madrid squandered a chance to reduce the gap with Spanish leader Barcelona to single digits after being held to a 0-0 draw at Malaga on Sunday.

Atletico started well and bossed the first half hour of play at La Rosaleda Stadium, when pressure applied by strike pair Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa led to Arda Turan’s and Cristian Rodriguez’s long-range attempts.

But after a frenetic first half, the defenses reduced the match to an ugly stalemate for most of the final 45 minutes.

Malaga was never able to find its flow in attack and was limited to defenders Martin Demichelis and Weligton going close with headers from set-pieces.

By not winning, Atletico likely let escape its last chance to add some drama to the title race, with Barcelona reeling after two losses to Real Madrid this week and focusing on its last-16 Champions League series with AC Milan in which it needs to come back from a 2-0 deficit.

Atletico trails Barcelona, which lost 2-1 at Madrid on Saturday, by 11 points in second place with 12 rounds to go.

Malaga stayed in fourth place, one point ahead of Valencia and clinging to Spain’s final Champions League spot for next season. It also faces a key Champions League game against FC Porto in two weeks in which it must overturn a 1-0 loss in the first leg.