Sevilla moved joint top of La Liga with Barcelona after a superb volley from Gerard Deulofeu saw off Real Sociedad and heaped more misery on under-fire manager Jagoba Arrasate.
The Barcelona loanee, who spent last season at Everton, struck the only goal of the game after 18 minutes but Sevilla were well worth the three points and only their profligacy in front of goal spared Sociedad a drubbing.
The Basque side suffered their second consecutive defeat in four days and have taken just four points so far this season, but things could hardly be different for Sevilla, who notched their fourth consecutive victory.
Unai Emery’s side have a new-found resilience to them this term despite parting with Alberto Moreno and Ivan Rakitic in the summer and began the game in confident mood. Real Sociedad goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai had to dive across goal to prevent Nico Pareja’s 25-yard drive from bulging the top corner, and the stopper watched in relief a minute later as Grzegorz Krychowiak’s driven effort whistled past his near post.
There was little the goalkeeper could do about Deulofeu’s thunderbolt which opened the scoring, however. Full-back Benoit Tremoulinas served up a looping cross into the six yard box from the left hand side and the Catalan forward caught it perfectly to fire into the roof of the net.
Zubikarai was able to stop Ever Banega’s long range effort and again gasped with relief as Jose Antonio Reyes sent his shot just wide of goal.
Having withstood heavy pressure from the hosts in the first half Sociedad made a positive start to the second period, with Chory Castro hitting the side netting after cutting in from the right wing.
However, it did not take long for Sevilla to come back at the visitors, who once again relied on a great save from Zubikarai to keep the scoreline as it was.
On this occasion the goalkeeper saved a Stephane Mbia header from close range as the Real Sociedad area resembled a pinball machine, the ball thrashing around the ground before it was eventually cleared.
Mbia later sent a free header wide of goal and was then denied again by Zubikarai, who had his hands full as he tried to keep his side in the game.
The goalkeeper delivered his side of the bargain by denying Denis Suarez and Aleix Vidal, but was let down by his teammates outfield, who barely created a chance at the other end.
Barcelona, meanwhile, dropped their first points of the La Liga season as they were held to an uneventful 0-0 draw away to Malaga.
Sevilla, with their win, are level with the Catalans on 13 points at the top of the table whilst Atletico Madrid are now just two points behind the leaders as they too won 1-0 away at Almeria.
Barca stretched their run without conceding a goal to six games, but lacked the spark they have shown so far this season as Lionel Messi was kept in check by the Malaga defence.
Indeed it was the hosts who came closest to scoring as Luis Alberto’s fine free-kick was turned onto the post by Claudio Bravo.
“We weren’t precise in the last few metres of the pitch, but at no point did we suffer,” said Barca manager Luis Enrique.
“It was the most difficult game for us so far, but that was down to what our opponents did right.
“We didn’t play as well as we can and we just have to continue improving and correcting things.”
In a first-half of few chances Nordin Amrabat had the only shot on target as his low effort was easily held by Bravo.
Barca were struggling to create clear-cut openings but twice Messi came close from Jordi Alba crosses as he chested the ball inches wide before just failing to stretch for a tap in a minute before the break.
The visitors were similarly short of ideas in the second period provoking Enrique to replace Pedro and Neymar with youngsters Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi in search of a breakthrough.
However, it was Malaga who enjoyed their best spell shortly after those changes as Roberto Rosales fired wide when well-placed at the edge of the box before Bravo produced a stunning save to turn Liverpool loanee Alberto’s free-kick onto the post.
Malaga keeper Carlos Kameni then nearly gifted Barca the opener moments later as he spilled Gerard Pique’s header towards goal, but the Cameroonian smothered the ball before it crossed the line.
The hosts got a lucky break seven minutes from time when captain Weligton somehow escaped a red card for pushing Messi in the face, but they held on to claim a well-earned point.
Atletico will host Sevilla on Saturday in a top of the table clash as they moved up to third thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Almeria.
The champions had to rely on their threat from set-pieces once more as Miranda rose highest to thump home Koke’s corner.
Miranda’s goal was the sixth out of seven Atletico have scored in the league so far that came from a set-piece, but manager Diego Simeone insisted he isn’t worried at his side’s inability to score from open play.
“To get a corner you have to attack. The team is working well to generate this possibility,” said the Argentine, who will return to the touchline on Saturday after completing a five-match ban.
“It doesn’t worry me to win by scoring from set-pieces because it is part of the game.”
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao’s disastrous start to the campaign on the domestic front continued as they lost 2-1 at struggling Rayo Vallecano, thanks to two goals from on-loan Atletico striker Leo Baptistao.
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