BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Good goalkeeping frustrated two of the hottest teams in the Spanish league on Sunday with Real Sociedad and Villarreal held to scoreless draws.
Sociedad failed to retake the league lead after it drew 0-0 at Alavés despite playing with an extra man for half an hour.
Sociedad’s slip left Atlético Madrid at the top of the standings. Diego Simeone’s team won a seventh straight game on Saturday when it topped Valladolid 2-0.
Sociedad is one point back in second place, although Atlético has played two games fewer.
Villarreal remained in third place and five points adrift after it finished 0-0 at home with Elche. Real Madrid is another point back in fourth, with one game in hand. Barcelona trails Atlético by 12 points in ninth place, with two games in hand.
Alavés’ hard defense limited Sociedad’s chances, and when the Basque Country side did get dangerous, Fernando Pacheco was there to guarantee that Alavés stayed unbeaten for a sixth game in a row.
The goalkeeper twice denied Alexander Isak before Alavés lost Rodrigo Battaglia to a direct red card for what appeared to be something he said on the field in the 61st.
Pacheco also blocked Willian José’s powerful strike with 10 minutes left.
“We knew that this would be a tough match at a difficult ground,” said Sociedad midfielder Martín Merquelanz. “Pacheco had a good performance. We created good chances, but we didn’t have that last pass, that good cross, that clinical finish.”
Sociedad was without David Silva after he picked up an injury during warm-ups.
Sociedad had led the league for six consecutive rounds. The team’s attractive attack has helped it only lose just once this season.
Villarreal likewise dominated the ball but could not get the breakthrough against Elche.
The closest Villarreal came to scoring was when substitute Take Kubo forced Elche goalkeeper Édgar Badía to save low late in the second half.
Real Betis ended a run of three defeats after it scored two late goals to earn a 2-0 win at Osasuna.
Striker Borja Iglesias overcame his 11-month scoring drought in the 77th minute by finishing off a well-orchestrated counterattack for Manuel Pellegrini’s team.
Iglesias’ fellow substitute, Juan Miranda, added a second goal in injury time.
“It was critical to change our bad run, especially in the results we were getting,” Pellegrini said. “We maintained control of the match until we could score two nice goals.”
Relegation-threatened Osasuna has not won in the last five rounds.
WORSE THAN LOSING?
Granada grabbed two goals in the final three minutes to snatch a 3-3 draw with last-place Huesca, which was denied its first victory of the season.
Jorge Molina and Germán Sánchez both headed in crosses in the dying moments of the match for Granada.
“This draw hurts more than a loss,” said Huesca coach Miguel “Míchel” Sánchez. “We had that much-needed first victory in our grasp.”
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