Alvaro Morata had an unconvincing debut as Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at Real Betis on Sunday to miss its chance to move closer to Spanish league leader Barcelona.

Atletico could have gone within three points of Barcelona — after the Catalan club was held by Valencia to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday — but conceded a second-half penalty kick and lost for the first time in 19 league matches.

Atletico now trails Barcelona by six points after 22 matches.

Diego Simeone’s team was unbeaten since a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo in the third round of games. The setback at Benito Villamarin Stadium was only the third loss for Atletico in 33 matches in all competitions this season.

Midfielder Sergio Canales converted the 65th-minute penalty after Atletico defender Filipe Luis was called for a handball inside the area.

The victory was Betis’ first against Atletico since Simeone took over the Madrid club late in 2011 and moved the Sevilla side to sixth in the league.

Morata, Atletico’s biggest signing in the winter transfer window, played from the start but wasn’t much of a factor. The former Real Madrid striker arrived last week on a 18-month loan from Chelsea.


Villarreal continued its disappointing season with a 2-2 draw against Espanyol.

Second-to-last Villarreal squandered a two-goal lead as its winless streak in the league reached nine matches.

The match marked the return of coach Javi Calleja, who was re-hired last week less than two months after being fired by the club. He replaced Luis Garcia Plaza, who was let go after winning only one of his nine matches after replacing Calleja.

Espanyol, winless in five matches in all competitions, is 14th.


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