Sevilla fight back to draw at Villarreal and move into third spot

MADRID (Reuters) - Sharp shooting allowed Sevilla to twice come from behind and take a valuable away point in a 2-2 draw at in-form Villarreal on Monday to move up to third place in La Liga.

The result took Sevilla to 53 points from 31 games and boosted their bid for a Champions League berth while inflicting a blow to similar ambitions held by the hosts, who moved up to sixth but are on 48 points, four points off the top four.

Sevilla captain Sergio Escudero hammered home a stinging shot from outside the penalty area for the first equaliser just before the break and Munir El Haddadi’s left-foot volley from an acute angle secured a draw at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

Paco Alcacer and Pau Torres both scored to put Villarreal 2-1 ahead at halftime as their side looked for a fourth straight win since La Liga returned after the three-month COVID-19 lockdown.

Alcacer reacted quickest to open the scoring in the 18th minute, stabbing home the rebound from close range after the initial effort from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa had forced a point-blank save out of Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

Escudero equalised in the 39th minute as he took advantage of space offered by a defence that was backing off him.

But the lead did not last long as poor marking on the stroke of halftime allowed lanky defender Torres to head home from a corner and put Villarreal back in front.

Munir was one of three changes that Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui made at halftime in a gamble that paid off when another of the changes, veteran Jesus Navas, swept a pass from one side of the field to the other to find the unmarked Munir.

The 24-year-old former Barcelona player fired a volley into the net, the sweet connection offering a reminder of his potential.

Villarreal brought on 36-year-old midfielder Bruno Soriano for the final five minutes as he made his first appearance in more than three years after being persistently troubled by knee problems. He had last played in May 2017.

Miguel Angel Guerrero missed a golden chance to temper Leganes’ relegation concerns when he had his penalty saved in Monday’s late game at home to Granada, whose goalkeeper Rui Silva pushed the 64th minute effort onto the crossbar.

The goalless draw left Leganes second from bottom while Granada moved up to ninth place.

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar