(REUTERS) - Sevilla's La Liga title ambitions suffered another blow on Sunday (Feb 20) after they were held to a 1-1 stalemate at Espanyol, a fourth draw in their last five league matches.
Julen Lopetegui's side are in second place with 51 points from 25 games, six points behind leaders Real Madrid and eight ahead of Real Betis in third, who host Mallorca later on Sunday.
Sevilla went ahead in the 36th minute after Rafa Mir volleyed in from a Papu Gomez cross, but the hosts found the equaliser when Sergi Darder headed in from close range five minutes after the break.
Sevilla ended the game with 10 men after French defender Jules Kounde was sent off in the 76th minute when he lost his cool and hit Javi Puado while trying to break free from the Espanyol winger's grip.
To add to Sevilla's woes, forward Anthony Martial, on loan from English Premier League giants Manchester United, had to be substituted early in the first half with a left-leg injury.
"We were not ourselves against Espanyol," Sevilla midfielder Fernando told said.
"It was a complicated game, it was strange. We are struggling with injuries and inconsistency. The best thing right now is to not think about how far we are from the lead. We need to focus game by game."