Barcelona moved ever closer towards a successful defence of their La Liga title after nearest challengers Atletico Madrid suffered a shock late capitulation at struggling Sporting Gijon to lose 2-1 on Saturday.
Relegation-threatened Gijon scored twice in the last 11 minutes with Carlos Castro securing the winner in the 89th minute to deliver a potentially fatal wound to Atletico’s title chances.
Diego Simeone’s men had won six out of their last seven league games – including the last four in a row – before the trip to the El Molinon and they could have made it five on the trot when they took the lead in the first half.
Frenchman Antoine Griezmann curled a left-foot free-kick from 20 yards into the top corner on the half-hour mark, but they couldn’t hold on to the lead.
Antonio Sanabria equalised with just over ten minutes to go before a last-minute winner from Carlos Castro earned Sporting Gijon their first win in eight games, and only their second in 2016.
The late collapse came after an exhausting week for Diego Simeone’s men, who had secured their last-eight spot in the Champions League only after two hours of football and a mentally-draining penalty shootout against PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.
“We always kept clear the objective of this club, which is to finish in third place. The loss goes against any aspirations of finishing as champions,” said Simeone, who insists Atletico overachieve by even competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Atletico remain four points above Real, who are third.
“We controlled the game until they equalised,” Simeone said. “There is no need to look for excuses. The reality is there for anyone to see. We don’t have anything else.”