Atletico held 0-0 by Betis ahead of visit to Arsenal
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Second-place Atletico Madrid was held 0-0 at home by Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday in a second straight setback before Diego Simeone’s team faces Arsenal in the Europa League semifinals.
Atletico, which lost 3-0 at Real Sociedad midweek, visits Arsenal in the first leg on Thursday.
Barcelona remains the overwhelming favorite to win La Liga, leading Atletico by 11 points. Third-place Real Madrid is another four points behind Atletico.
Both Barcelona and Madrid have five games left, one more than Atletico.
Simeone rested forward Antoine Griezmann and midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, before sending both on as second-half substitutes. Defender Diego Godin never left the bench.
Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said the players were tired.
“It’s normal,” said Simeone. “Any worker is tired at this point. But now comes the most beautiful part, what we have been working all year for, and we will give it our all.”
Atletico failed to break through Betis’ defense at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Betis forward Cristian Tello grazed the post in the visitors’ best scoring chance in the 69th, while Saul Niguez rattled the crossbar for Atletico five minutes later.
Betis lost goalkeeper Dani Gimenez to an apparent leg injury in the first half. He was replaced by reserve team ’keeper Pedro Lopez.
Betis, which had won its previous six games, remained in fifth place and on course for the Europa League next season.
“It was an evenly contested match and for us that is enough,” said Betis coach Quique Setien.
Barcelona’s league match against Villarreal, and Madrid’s game against Sevilla, were pushed back to May 9 due to the Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla on Saturday. Barcelona won 5-0.
LAS PALMAS RELEGATED
Las Palmas was relegated to Spain’s second tier after losing 4-0 at home to Alaves.
Forward Munir El Haddadi scored twice after halftime before Alvaro Medran and Ruben Sobrino added two late goals to ensure Alaves remained in the top flight for another season.
Las Palmas was relegated with four matches remaining. The Canary Islands club had spent three seasons in the top tier.
“It is a sad day for all of us, not just because we were relegated, but for the way the game went and the result,” Las Palmas coach Paco Jemez said. “We must all accept our measure of responsibility and the criticism we will receive.”
Last-place Malaga, which had already been relegated, beat Real Sociedad 2-0 with goals by Adrian Gonzalez and Youssef En-Nesyri.
Deportivo La Coruna is currently in the remaining relegation spot.
Gerard Moreno scored two goals for Espanyol to give interim coach David Gallego a win on his debut.
Espanyol fired Quique Sanchez Flores as its manager on Friday after five matches without scoring a goal.
Both of Moreno’s goals were set up by midfielder Sergi Darder.