VILLARREAL, Spain – Two teams who have been struggling of late, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, played to a 0-0 draw on Friday in the LaLiga Match Day 16 opener.
The result leaves Atleti in sixth place with 26 points, five points behind the top two, Barcelona and Real Madrid, who each have two games in hand.
Villarreal, with 19 points, are 12th, but could fall as low as 15th by the end of this weekend.
The first half of Friday night’s contest in front of 18,000 at Villarreal’s La Ceramica was dynamic, with chances at both ends of the pitch.
The clearest opportunity came in the 11th minute, when what looked like a harmless shot from Atletico’s Joao Felix hit the post. Minutes later, the Portuguese striker sent the ball over the cross-bar.
Atleti showed greater polish on the attack, yet the hosts seemed more explosive with Chukwueze setting the tone.
Villarreal won plenty of corners, but failed to get anything out of them, though Manu Trigueros did force a great stop from Colchoneros goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
While the frenetic pace carried over into the second half, the earlier back-and-forth was replaced by Atleti’s domination of the ball.
Villarreal, however, remained capable of posing a threat on the counter when the opportunity presented itself.
As the half wore on, Villarreal reasserted themselves and the possession became more even, forcing Atleti to worry as much about defending as attacking.
A draw was the most suitable outcome for a match where victory for either team would have represented an excessive penalty for the losers.
Spain coach Luis Enrique Martinez was in the stands for the match, while the ceremonial kickoff was entrusted to tennis star Roberto Bautista, part of the Spanish team that won the Davis Cup a few weeks ago.