Villarreal 1 Atletico Madrid 1: Simeone's side denied La Liga top spot

Filipe Luis' header had Atletico Madrid on course for top spot in La Liga but Mario Gaspar had other ideas in an entertaining draw.

Atletico Madrid's Nikola Kalinic in action against Villareal.   -  Twitter: @Atleti

Atletico Madrid missed the opportunity to go top of La Liga as Mario Gaspar's strike secured a 1-1 draw for Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

After a sluggish start to the season, which saw Atletico win just one of its opening four games, Diego Simeone's side had given itself a glorious chance of reaching the league's summit on Saturday with three wins in their its previous outings.

Filipe Luis looked to have set it on its way to another victory, heading in after 51 minutes on a day where rival Real Madrid continued its slump with a loss to Levante, but Mario's deflected effort 14 minutes later earned Javi Calleja's side a deserved point.

Villarreal could have even gone on to win the game, but were kept at bay by some superb goalkeeping from Jan Oblak, while Atletico had its chance to win it when Thomas Lemar somehow headed Juanfran's cross wide with a minute remaining.

The closest either side came during a tepid opening half-hour was Antoine Griezmann's dipping effort from 25 yards, which flashed just over Sergio Asenjo's crossbar.

READ | Real Madrid 1 Levante 2: Lopetegui on the brink as abysmal run continues

Oblak had to be alert soon after to tip over Jaume Costa's deflected strike and preserve his side’s status as the only team in Europe's top five leagues not to concede a first-half goal this season.

The visitor forged ahead after the restart when Griezmann's inswinging free-kick was headed against his own crossbar by Ramiro Funes Mori and Filipe nodded in the rebound from 10 yards.

It was pegged back after 65 minutes, however, when Mario's low strike was deflected past Oblak by Filipe after a goalmouth scramble.

The goalkeeper had to be at his very best to push away Pablo Fornals' drive soon after and then thwart the clean-through Carlos Bacca to ensure his side at least left with a point. 

Atletico almost claimed victory with Lemar's late chance, but an end-to-end finish did not produce a winner.

What does it mean: Missed opportunity for Atleti

Its time at the summit could have been a short one given that a Barcelona won against Sevilla later on Saturday and would have dethroned it, but it would still have been quite the achievement after its poor start to the campaign, and a chance to capitalise on the chaos at Santiago Bernabeu. 

A draw was no disgrace, though, and stretched its unbeaten run in the league to six games. Villarreal, meanwhile, will be buoyed by its stirring second-half display and should get back to winning ways soon if it continues to play like that.

Oblak in inspired form

Oblak sat out of Slovenia's games during the international break, and it proved to be a wise move with a superb performance to deny Villarreal. He was immense in the second half and was only beaten for the equaliser by a cruel deflection, ending the match with five saves.

Griezmann out of sorts

He scored twice in France's win over Germany in midweek, but Atleti's talismanic forward was way short of his best on Saturday. Griezmann's free-kick led to the Filipe goal, but in open play he was comfortably kept at arm's length by the Villarreal backline, and he only had one shot all game - typical of a poor attacking display from his side.

READ | Marcelo backing beleaguered Lopetegui despite Madrid slump

Key Opta stats: Simeone cannot solve Villarreal puzzle

- Atletico has failed to win its last seven La Liga games against Villarreal (D3 L4), its second-worst active run against a single opponent (Barcelona - 16).

- Filipe scored his very first headed goal in La Liga (14 goals in 332 appearances).

- Villarreal has failed to win each of its last six home league matches (D3 L3), equalling its worst streak at home in the top flight recorded in October 2003 (D5 L1).

- For the first time in its history, Villarreal has failed to win any of its first five La Liga home games (D2 L3).

- Oblak has saved 14 of the last 15 shots on target he has faced in LaLiga.

What's next?

Atleti resumes its Champions League campaign on Wednesday with a visit to Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund, while Villarreal hosts Rapid Vienna a day later in the Europa League before a Saturday league trip to high-flying Deportivo Alaves.

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