By Alan Feehely l @azulfeehely
Leganés crashed to their 18th defeat of the season at Estadio Municipal Butarque on Tuesday evening, falling nine points away from Celta Vigo in 17th with just five games remaining. They were beaten 3-0 by a Sevilla team who returned to winning ways after four consecutive draws, keeping Villarreal and Getafe at arm’s length in their race for fourth spot while trimming the bridge to Atlético Madrid to three points.
Óliver Torres scored twice in the first half to knock Leganés to the canvas before Munir El Haddadi stuck the knife in late-on to ensure the Andalusian side’s victory. It was a professional performance from them, counter attacking with skill and speed while restricting a positive home side to mostly half-chances.
Leganés face bottom side Espanyol next before a trip to Eibar, but with Valencia, Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Madrid amongst their final fixtures one would have to assume that survival is just too steep a task. Sevilla will face Eibar, Athletic Club, Mallorca, Real Sociedad and Valencia in their culminating matches, and will be hoping to secure Champions League qualification as well as maintain strong form heading into their Europa League clash with Roma in August.
Leganés kicked off in 31 degree heat with three Sevilla players in their starting line-up. Bryan Gil, Roque Mesa and Ibrahim Amadou were all contracted to the visitors but did not have a clause that prevented them from playing against them, so went into the tie with a point to prove.
Nonetheless, Sevilla started strongly. They almost got off to a dream start when Nemanja Gudelj played former Leganés player Youssef En-Nesyri through on goal, but the Moroccan striker proved indecisive and cut it back for Kenneth Omeruo to clear. Moments later, En-Nesyri came close again. This time, Sevilla clipped a short corner across to Suso, whose angled volley came back across goal only for his centre-forward to send off-target an opportunity he should have done better with.
The visitors broke the deadlock with 20 minutes on the clock. Another short corner was whipped across goal only to be cleared as far as Óliver, who was on hand to step up and send a driven half-volley past Iván Cuéllar and into the back of the net. Óliver doubled his and Sevilla’s advantage soon after the first water break. Jesús Navas broke down the right side to find him in the box, with the Spanish midfielder turning smartly before slotting coolly into the bottom left corner.
Éver Banega took to the field in the final stages of the game, in what could be his final showing in a Sevilla shirt. His contract ran out at midnight on Tuesday evening and he is scheduled to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab at this season’s end, although coach Julen Lopetegui and his director of football, Monchi, are looking to pull off an extension that could see the diminutive Argentinian playmaker extend his second spell with the club to take part in their upcoming Europa League campaign.
Second-half substitute Munir put the result beyond all doubt in the 82nd minute. Navas stood up a high ball from the right wing that wasn’t dealt with by the Leganés defence and fell to Munir, who took a touch, sold his opposing number with a smart dummy, and finished well for his fourth goal of the season.
Sevilla almost made it 4-0 in the dying moments. Jules Koundé, who had shifted to right back to cover the substituted Navas, broke down the right wing to link up with Lucas Ocampos, who found Munir at the back post. He saw his effort cleared off the line by Leganes captain Unai Bustinza. Leganés then broke down the opposite end, but Miguel Ángel Guerrero’s effort was saved by Tomáš Vaclík to preserve his clean sheet and to confirm Sevilla’s victory.