Luis Suarez bowed out with an ovation and a show of emotion as Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 with Sevilla in the striker’s final home game for the club.
The 35-year-old Uruguay international will be released at the end of this campaign, it was confirmed on Sunday, with the man whose goals spurred last season’s LaLiga title success on the move.
He could not produce any of the old magic this time, with Jose Gimenez scoring Atleti’s goal, yet there was the warmest of receptions for Suarez from around the Wanda Metropolitano when he was substituted in the 64th minute. As he sat on the bench, he appeared close to tears.
Out-of-sorts Sevilla were in growing danger of sliding out of the top four next weekend, having for so long been the team that most closely tracked champions Real Madrid, but Youssef En-Nesyri headed an 85th-minute leveller. Now they, like Atletico, are assured of Champions League football next season.
Suarez lashed wide from an early half-chance after Atletico snatched possession on the edge of the Sevilla penalty area, and he and Antoine Griezmann both saw efforts blocked.
En-Nesyri got his finish all wrong at the other end after dashing in behind the Atletico defence, skewing well wide of Jan Oblak’s goal.
The breakthrough came after 30 minutes when Gimenez stole into a yard of space at the near post and headed Yannick Carrasco’s corner from the left across goal and beyond Yassine Bounou.
It was a first LaLiga goal of the season for Gimenez, and a team-high sixth assist for Carrasco.
A flying header from Suarez went a yard wide in the 53rd minute, before Sevilla’s Alejandro Gomez saw a deflected strike from outside the penalty area well saved by Oblak.
Rodrigo de Paul had a 20-yard strike tipped over as Atletico sought a second to kill the game, but they were stung instead when En-Nesyri, having hit the crossbar moments earlier, nodded in from a fine cross by Oliver Torres.
What does it mean? Mission accomplished for Sevilla
For Sevilla, El-Nesyri’s goal fended off the worry they would go to the final day of the season in danger of being pipped to fourth place by city rivals Real Betis.
It is four draws in a row for Julen Lopetegui’s team, and the coach’s position is reportedly in doubt, but this outcome provided cause for celebration.
Sevilla lead Betis by three points going to the 38th game, but they have the better head-to-head record so are sure to be playing Europe’s elite next term. They sit just a point behind Atletico going to the last round.
Atletico have not lost any of their last 13 home matches against Sevilla now in LaLiga (W6 D7). In terms of the number of games, this equals their best unbeaten run at home against them in the competition, achieved between 1958 and 1970 (G13 W10 D3), but failing to see this one out will surely irk Diego Simeone.
Another season in the #UCL pic.twitter.com/6fEmAum0hk
— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) May 15, 2022
Suarez signs off at the Metropolitano
It was clear Suarez fancied leaving Atletico supporters with one final glorious memory on home soil, but he was found wanting for accuracy with his goal attempts here, a reflection of this season’s diminishing returns.
Atletico are sensibly moving on, not letting sentiment cloud their thinking. ‘Thank you Lucho for making us champions’ read a banner in the stands, affectionately addressing Suarez. He departed after 64 minutes, having had a team-high three goal attempts up to that point.
Persistence pays off for El-Nesyri
He had gone close already, and when Torres crossed from the right, El-Nesyri timed his run perfectly to meet the ball from around 10 yards and find the left corner. In all, El-Nesyri had four goal attempts, half of Sevilla’s total. It was his fifth goal of the LaLiga campaign, and spares Sevilla a week-long headache.
Atletico finish their season at Real Sociedad next Sunday, while Sevilla host Athletic Bilbao on the same day.
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