Seville (Spain), April 28 (IANS) Sevilla FC battled to a 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo to climb to 68 points, the same number as Atletico Madrid, though the latter hang onto third place in La Liga thanks to a better goal difference.
Atletico's 1-0 home loss to Villarreal earlier this week handed Sevilla a golden opportunity to pull level with the Madrid side, reports Efe news agency.
At the same time, Jorge Sampaoli's men were eager to increase their advantage over fifth-place Villarreal to eight points in the contest for the final Champions League slot.
Holding down 11th place in La Liga, Celta is preparing for next week's Europa League semi-final first leg against Manchester United, which will mark the Spanish club's debut in a European final four.
While coach Eduardo "Toto" Berizzo rested many of his starters for last weekend's match with Real Betis, he put the first team on the field for Thursday's contest in Seville.
Though Celta were more assertive in the opening exchanges, Sevilla's Vicente Iborra had the first chance of the night, a header in the 22nd minute that hit the post.
The visitors got their opportunities, but failed to capitalise on any of them and the sides ended the first half 0-0.
Sevilla took a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the second half, courtesy of Joaquin "Tucu" Correa.
Celta were quick to react and the equaliser came in the 53rd minute as Iago Aspas converted from the spot after the referee awarded a penalty for Clement Lenglet's foul on John Guidetti.
But the visitors went down to 10 men just three minutes later, when Pablo Hernandez was sent off for a second yellow card.
With the advantage, the home side went for the win, only for Sergio Escudero and Samir Nasri to hit the post on successive chances.
Time appeared to be on the side of the visitors until Wissam Ben Yedder, largely invisible until then, put Sevilla ahead with a goal in the 79th minute.