MADRID (AP): Atlético Madrid lost their first Spanish league match since September on the day of Álvaro Morata’s much-anticipated debut. The newly signed striker had a lacklustér debut as Atlético lost 1-0 at Real Betis on Sunday to miss their chance to move closer to league leaders Barcelona. Atlético could have gone within three points of Barcelona – after the Catalan club was held by Valencia to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday – but conceded a second-half penalty kick and lost for the first time in 19 league matches. They now trail Barcelona by six points after 22 matches. “We had the chance to cut into their lead but couldn’t do it,” Atlético defender Juanfran Torres said. “But we are not giving up.” Diego Simeone’s team had been unbeaten in the league since a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo in the third round of games. The setback at Benito Villamarin Stadium was only the third loss for Atlético in 33 matches in all competitions this season. Morata, Atlético’s biggest signing in the winter transfer window, played from the start but was not much of a factor. The former Real Madrid striker, who arrived last week on an 18-month loan from Chelsea, had opportunities but seemed out of sync with his new teammates. WORKED WELL “He’s only been here for a few days,” Simeone said. “He worked well, with a lot of enthusiasm. Hopefully, he will start scoring soon. We are going to need his goals.” Simeone and Morata demanded a penalty when the striker was brought down inside the area early in the second half. A few moments later, midfielder Sergio Canales converted the 65th-minute winner from the penalty spot after Atlético defender Filipe Luis was called for a handball inside the area. The victory was Betis’ first against Atlético since Simeone took over the Madrid club late in 2011 and moved the Sevilla side to sixth in the league. “We played a very intelligent match,” Betis coach Quique Setién said.
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