Atlético earns Champions League spot for 10th straight year
MADRID (AP) — Atlético Madrid secured a Champions League spot for the 10th straight season after defeating Elche 2-0 in the Spanish league on Wednesday.
The victory moved Diego Simeone’s team into third place, one point ahead of Sevilla, which earlier missed its own chance to guarantee a berth in Europe’s top club competition next season after a scoreless home draw against relegation-threatened Mallorca.
Matheus Cunha and Rodrigo De Paul scored a goal in each half to leave Atlético six points in front of fifth-place Real Betis with two rounds to go. Betis, which won 3-0 at Valencia on Tuesday, can’t surpass Atlético for the final qualification spot because it loses on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“This team also wants to be playing in the top competitions,” De Paul said. “We had an up-and-down season but to finish like this is important.”
The victory left Atlético with a chance to catch Barcelona for second place and a place in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Barcelona, which defeated Celta Vigo 3-1 at home on Tuesday, is five points in front of Atlético going into the last two games of the season.
Real Madrid clinched its record-extending 35th league title in advance. It hosts last-place Levante on Thursday.
Atlético has made it to the Champions League every time since 2013-14. It reached the final in 2014 and 2016, losing the title-deciding games to city rival Madrid both times. It only failed to advance past the group stage in 2017-18. Simeone’s team was eliminated by Manchester City in this year’s quarterfinals.
Cunha opened the scoring in the 28th minute and De Paul sealed the victory with a shot into an open net in the 62nd after an assist by Antoine Griezmann, who played well despite seeing its scoreless streak reach 17 matches in all competitions.
Substitute Atlético striker Luis Suárez had a goal disallowed for offside in stoppage time.
Elche, sitting in 14th place, has escaped relegation despite the loss, its second consecutive.
Sevilla again missed a chance to secure its Champions League spot in advance at home.
Julen Lopetegui’s team has drawn three straight matches, including the last two at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium. The other home draw also was against a relegation-threated team, Cádiz.
Sevilla has won only two of its last 10 matches in all competitions, with three losses and five draws.
Mallorca stayed with chances of escaping demotion as it sits two points behind Cádiz, the first team outside the relegation zone. Cádiz visits sixth-place Real Sociedad on Thursday.
Alavés left last-place and moved within four points of exiting the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over Espanyol.
Miguel de la Fuente and Gonzalo Escalante scored a goal in each half for the hosts, while Espanyol got on the board with Raúl de Tomás in the first half.
It was the third win in the last five league matches for Alavés, all of them at home.
Espanyol stayed in 13th place and is safe in the top flight next season.
GETAFE ALMOST SAFE
Getafe earned a 1-1 draw at mid-table Osasuna to move within a point of securing its permanence in the first division.
It got the draw despite not having a single attempt on target. It scored with an own-goal by Osasuna midfielder Lucas Torró.
The result kept Getafe in 15th place, five points from safety. It has a better head-to-head tiebreaker against Mallorca, the first team inside the relegation zone.
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