MADRID (Reuters) - Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico blundered and then made two brilliant late stops as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Alaves on Monday that dented their La Liga title bid.
Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla side went ahead through Wissam Ben Yedder’s drilled opener in the 23rd minute but Aleksandar Katai equalised with 15 minutes left when he bundled the ball home after Rico had spilled Oscar Romero’s inswinging cross.
Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra whistled a strike over the bar as they tried to grab a late winner but Alaves came closer when Rico was forced into a spectacular save from Katai’s free-kick before Deyverson’s overhead follow up hit the bar.
Rico then produced another crucial intervention to deny Deyverson four minutes from time after the forward turned in the area to escape his marker and was poised to put the hosts ahead.
The result leaves third-placed Sevilla four points behind leaders Barcelona after 26 games and three points behind Real Madrid, who have played one match less, while Alaves stay 11th.
Asked about his mistake, Rico said: ”It was a move which was unlucky for us. We will keep going like this, we will keep fighting and we will not give up until the end of La Liga.
“Any more points we can add away from home are good. We will not stop going until the end.”
Sampaoli denied his team were struggling physically even though Alaves looked fresher in the second half and started to dominate the game.
“(Sevilla) are at the same physical point as all the teams that are in two competitions,” said the Argentine, whose side hold a 2-1 lead over Leicester City before the away leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on March 14.
”Today it was more the mental side than the physical side because we went looking (for another goal) and we didn’t sit back. Our hopes are intact.
”We have respect for our opponents today and they did what they had to do to try and win, in a stadium that is very difficult to play in.
“In the second half we went out to play to win from the first minute. They played too and made small changes and they had the ability to make things difficult for us.”
Reporting by Rik Sharma; Editing by Ken Ferris