Galatarasay’s forward Wesley Sneijder controls the ball during the Turkish league football match Galatasaray vs Besiktas at theTurk Telekom Arena on January 27, 2013, in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO/MIRA (Photo credit should read MIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
MADRID (AP) Coach Jorge Sampaoli felt Sevilla needed a big win against a top opponent to establish itself as a true contender in Spain.
He got just that on Sunday as his team defeated previously unbeaten Atletico Madrid 1-0 to stay near the top of the Spanish league.
French midfielder Steven N’Zonzi netted the winner in the 73rd minute at a packed Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium to give the hosts their third straight win.
“It was an important game to consolidate ourselves against a team that looked unbeatable,” Sampaoli said. “We did well against one of the best teams in the world. This victory makes me proud.”
Sevilla, which has won six straight at home, reached 20 points from nine rounds, one point behind Real Madrid, which is top after a 2-1 home win against Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona, which defeated Valencia 3-2 Saturday thanks to an injury-time penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi, is third with 19 points.
“It’s going to be tight like this the entire season,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.
There had been some early doubts about Sampaoli as Sevilla lost in the Spanish Super Cup to Barcelona and the UEFA Super Cup to Real Madrid. But after the up-and-down start, the Argentine coach has finally been able to put Sevilla on track. As well as contending in Spain, the Andalusian club is also in a good position to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Atletico, which had the lead coming into the weekend, dropped to fifth place, three points behind Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s team played with 10 men from the 77th on Sunday because of a second yellow card shown to midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion.
Sampaoli made key adjustments at halftime, allowing his team to take control of the game and earn the hard-fought victory under pouring rain in Seville.
N’Zonzi scored the winner on a fast breakaway, speeding past two defenders after receiving a great throughball from striker Luciano Vietto. The Frenchman entered the area and calmly sent a low shot into the far corner as Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak charged from the net.
Real Madrid needed an 83rd-minute winner by substitute Alvaro Morata to earn a hard-fought win against Athletic Bilbao.
Karim Benzema put Madrid ahead just seven minutes into the game at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Sabin Merino equalized in the 27th and held on for most of the match.
Morata, celebrating his 24th birthday, scored from close range less than 10 minutes after replacing Benzema. Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz made the initial save but Morata persisted and found the open net off the rebound.
“I feel like a 10-year-old,” Morata said. “We won and we are in the lead, it couldn’t have been better.”
It was Madrid’s second straight win after three consecutive draws in the league.
Madrid and Villarreal are the only unbeaten clubs in the league after nine rounds.
Athletic is sixth on 15 points, six behind Madrid.
French striker Cedric Bakambu scored the winner in second-half injury time for Villarreal, but it was Las Palmas’ Kevin-Prince Boateng who attracted all the attention with a remarkable goal before halftime.
Boateng’s side volley from inside the area came after a mid-air, back-heel pass by Pedro Tana, who flicked the ball across the area for Boateng to shoot firmly into the corner.
Still unbeaten in the league this season, Villarreal has won three of its last four games and is in fourth place with 19 points.
Celta Vigo rebounded from two consecutive losses with a comfortable home win over Deportivo La Coruna behind a pair of goals by striker Iago Aspas.
After a 4-3 loss to Barcelona and a 5-0 defeat against Villarreal, Celta cruised to victory against struggling Deportivo to move to eighth place with 13 points.
The teams were tied 1-1 when Aspas converted a 60th-minute penalty kick. Chilean midfielder Fabian Orellana added to the lead in the 78th and Aspas closed the scoring in the 83rd at the Balaidos Stadium.
Deportivo, which has lost four of its last five games, dropped to 17th in the 20-team standings.
Philadelphia Union 0-2 New York Red Bulls
New York City FC 4-1 Columbus Crew SC
Toronto FC 3-2 Chicago Fire
Orlando City SC 4-2 D.C. United
New England Revolution 3-0 Montreal Impact
1. New York Red Bulls
2. New York City FC
3. Toronto FC
4. D.C. United
5. Montreal Impact
6. Philadelphia Union
The moments that mattered
4:33 p.m. ET — Fagundez curls one in, keeps the Revs’ heart beating — It’s going to take a lot more of these from the Revs, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
4:33 p.m. ET — DCU give one up to Molino, still 4th — Ben Olsen’s reserve side got off to a rocky start.
4:41 p.m. ET — Kaka puts ORL 2-0 up against DCU’s reserves — Fortunately for DCU, MTL don’t seem to want to finish 4th either.
4:38 p.m. ET — De Leeuw puts CHI 1-0 up on TOR — Losing to the worst team in the league on the final day of the season with a chance to secure a bye in the knockout round… it would be so TFC.
4:48 p.m. ET — BWP puts RBNY up, seals the Golden Boot — Anything but a loss, and RBNY finish top of the East. Bradley Wright-Phillips is doing what he does.
5:03 p.m. ET — Saborio pulls one back for DCU, still in 4th — ORL gifted DCU a way back into the game.
5:05 p.m. ET — Giovinco brings TFC level, back into the race for 2nd — A little late to the party, but TFC have awoken.
5:05 p.m. ET — Villa puts NYCFC 1-0 up, still stuck in 2nd — NYCFC keeping the pressure on RBNY, and keeping TFC at arm’s length.
5:28 p.m. ET — Higuita restores ORL’s two-goal lead — Top shelf, far post. DCU not afraid of playing on the road in the knockout round, apparently.
5:34 p.m. ET — Giovinco sets up Morrow for 2-1, a point off 2nd — All TFC need now is a CLB equalizer, and they’d take the second knockout-round bye.
5:36 p.m. ET — Muyl wraps up the top spot for RBNY — That’ll just about do it for RBNY, the undisputed kings of the East.
5:39 p.m. ET — Kamara heads CLB to 1-1; NYCFC drop to 3rd — The best five minutes of TFC’s season? Might just be.
5:43 p.m. ET — Osorio makes it 3-1 for TFC — Nine minutes change the outlook of TFC’s entire season.
5:55 p.m. ET — Harrison puts NYCFC back in front, back in 2nd — TFC can score all the goals they want, but NYCFC only need to win to finish 2nd.
5:57 p.m. ET — Shelton makes it 3-1 NYCFC; safe in 2nd — The worst three minutes of TFC’s season? Might just be.
LA Galaxy 0-0 FC Dallas
Colorado Rapids 1-1 Houston Dynamo
Seattle Sounders 2-1 Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes
Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 Portland Timbers
1. FC Dallas
2. Colorado Rapids
3. LA Galaxy
4. Seattle Sounders
5. Sporting Kansas City
6. Real Salt Lake
The moments that mattered
4:24 p.m. ET — Fernandez puts SEA up 1-0, into 4th — Fewer than three minutes on the clock, and the Sounders scored this beauty. Sensual soccer.
4:25 p.m. ET — Mulholland pulls RSL back to 1-1, back into 4th — 90 seconds later, RSL’s equalizer was’t nearly as pretty.
4:34 p.m. ET — Barnes puts VAN 1-0 up on POR — POR defenders standing around, and Giles Barnes puts them in a bad, bad place.
4:41 p.m. ET — COL give one up to HOU; Shield hopes in trouble — COL’s only hope for the Supporters’ Shield was a win and an FCD loss. Not looking good early.
4:47 p.m. ET — Feilhaber scores from the spot, SKC go 4th — After a nervy opening 25 minutes, SKC get on the board.
4:52 p.m. ET — Roldan puts SEA back into the lead, back in 4th — SKC’s time in 4th was short-lived, thanks to a header by the smallest man on the field in Seattle.
4:53 p.m. ET — Barnes makes it 2-0; POR in big trouble — POR’s’ season looks to have gone up in flames.
5:34 p.m. ET — 3-0 and 4-0 in Vancouver; so long, POR — Just an unbelievable collapse on the final day from POR.
5:45 p.m. ET — Gashi pulls COL level, but they need another — Nothing doing in LA; COL lurking in the event up a slip-up by FCD.
6:05 p.m. ET — Zusi fires past Bingham, seals 5th for SKC — Breathing room for SKC.
We’re through 45 minutes of Decision Day, and the goals have been flying in all over MLS already.
[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS scoreboard for Decision Day updates ]
The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake traded goals inside the first five minutes in the Emerald City, and the Sounders reclaimed the lead just after the half-hour mark. They’re now fourth place in the Western Conference, clinging onto the home game in the knockout round that comes with it. Sporting Kansas City are 1-0 up on the San Jose Earthquakes, which has them fifth at this very moment. The defending champion Portland Timbers are 2-0 down in Vancouver, and are 45 minutes from missing out on the playoffs altogether.
FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy are scoreless in Southern California, and the Colorado Rapids are 1-0 down to the Houston Dynamo, which is more than enough for FCD to clinch the Supporters’ Shield.
In the Eastern Conference, the New York Red Bulls are 1-0 up on the Philadelphia Union, and 45 minutes from clinching home-field advantage through the conference finals. Toronto FC are tie 1-1 with the last-place Chicago Fire, and will finish third if that result holds.
Philadelphia Union 0-1 New York Red Bulls
New York City FC 1-0 Columbus Crew SC
Toronto FC 1-1 Chicago Fire
Orlando City SC 2-1 D.C. United
New England Revolution 1-0 Montreal Impact
LA Galaxy 0-0 FC Dallas
Colorado Rapids 0-1 Houston Dynamo
Seattle Sounders 2-1 Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 Portland Timbers
For a full list of scenarios in the East, the West — to clinch berths and seeding implications — as well as the Shield race, hit this link and this link. Hit the link toward the top of this post, or right here, to keep up with all the action across the league over the final 45 minutes of the season. And, of course, check back on PST for full coverage of the afternoon and the setting of the stage for the playoffs, which begin Wednesday night with the knockout round.