Dubai: Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui delivered a backhanded compliment to Atletico Madrid after his side were beaten 2-0 by the La Liga leaders on Tuesday, saying Diego Simeone’s side are good at defending as well as making the most of their few chances.

Atletico Madrid extend lead at top of La Liga in Spain

Goals in either half from Angel Correa and Saul Niguez saw Atletico take all three points despite having just five shots at goal compared to Sevilla’s 13, and Lopetegui offered some begrudging praise to his rival.

“We came here to win and I think we played a fine game but Atletico are the best team in the world when it comes to managing both areas well,” Lopetegui told reporters.

“They manage to convince their players, who are of the highest level, to spend a long time in their own area defending and then they are very fine in the opposing area. We had many more chances than them but we didn’t take make the most of them and they did. Once they go in front it’s very difficult.”

Lopetegui also said his players were tired after having minimal rest following Saturday’s 3-2 win over Real Sociedad, while Atletico had fresher legs as their game with Athletic Bilbao was postponed because of a snowstorm.

“I’m sad because our players made such a big effort but we’re playing against a well-rested team and it makes a huge difference,” the coach added. “We had more chances, we won more corners, we got into their area more but in the end goals are all that count and we were not very effective.”

Atletico coach Simeone was not interested in a war of words with his counterpart. “We prepare for games as we see fit, the team went out on to the pitch knowing precisely what we needed to do,” he said. “We faced a lot of difficulties today and it’s a big shame there were no fans in the stadium tonight because they would have loved a big result like that against a big rival.”

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