MADRID: Atlético Madrid’s struggles continued as their season resumed with a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday for their third straight draw in the Spanish league.
The setback kept Diego Simeone’s team in sixth place, outside the Champions League spots.
The goals at the empty San Mamés Stadium came a couple of minutes apart late in the first half, with Athletic's Iker Muniain scoring first and Atlético equalizing with a goal from Diego Costa.
It was the 13th league draw for Atlético, which have only two wins in their last nine league matches.
“We earned a draw at a tough place but we need to start winning three points if we want to stay in contention to qualify for the Champions League," Atlético midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurrección said. "It will be difficult if we don't start winning matches.”
The league resumed Thursday after more than three months since being interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Leader Barcelona opened with a 4-0 rout at Mallorca on Saturday, while second-place Real Madrid host Eibar later Sunday.
Atlético’s last match before the break had been an away victory against Liverpool that eliminated the titleholders in the Champions League round of 16. But Atlético had drawn their last two league matches — against Sevilla and Espanyol — to drop in the standings and remain far from the leaders. They trail Barcelona by 15 points with 10 rounds left.
Atlético have the same 46 points as fifth-place Getafe and fourth-place Real Sociedad. Getafe lost at Granada on Friday, while Sociedad host Osasuna later Sunday.
Athletic, which had won two in a row before the break, stayed in 10th place.
Muniain opened the scoring for the hosts from inside the area in the 37th minute but Costa equalized two minutes later after a well-placed throughball by “Koke.”
It was the first goal for Costa since a league game last October. During the celebration, he held the jersey of Atlético women’s team player Virginia Torrecilla, who is recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Atlético defender Santiago Arias had a chance for the winner in the 80th but his close-range shot was saved by Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simón.
Simeone made all five substitutions that are now being allowed for teams, while Athletic’s Gaizka Garitano made four. It was Athletic’s first game since striker Aritz Aduriz announced his retirement. The 39-year-old Aduriz decided not to come back once the season resumed after doctors said he would need a hip replacement.