MADRID AFP) - Spanish champions Atletico Madrid suffered their first home league defeat in 28 matches as Luciano Vietto blasted home the winner six minutes from time to hand Villarreal a 1-0 win at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday.
An uncharacteristically error-strewn performance from Diego Simeone's men was deservedly punished by the visitors, who could have been out of sight before the goal but for two fine saves by Miguel Angel Moya.
Defeat leaves Atletico now seven points adrift of leaders Real Madrid and still three off second-placed Barcelona, who were the last team to beat Atletico on home soil in La Liga back in May 2013, whilst Villarreal move up to sixth.
The result also rounded off a perfect weekend for Real Madrid as they extended their lead at the top to four points after sealing their 20th consecutive win in all competitions 4-1 over Almeria on Friday, whilst Barcelona stumbled to a 0-0 draw at Getafe 24 hours later.
"I can only talk about the match because I was concentrated on the play," said Simeone, who gave Vietto his professional debut during his stint in charge of Racing Club in Argentina.
"It was an even match in terms of chances and the side that was more efficient was always going to have more chance to win.
"They won the game with a goal by Vietto and I am happy for him despite the fact we had gone more than a year without losing here." Villarreal boss Marcelino, meanwhile, believed his side deserved the win after running Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla close this season.
"This group deserved a victory like this," he said. "We have been very close in other games against the big sides where we have played well but not won."
Atletico were playing for the first time at the Calderon since a Deportivo La Coruna fan was killed in clashes near the stadium ahead of a meeting between the two sides a fortnight ago.
The club had promised to crackdown on their unruly ultras, but the unusually flat atmosphere in front of a half-empty stadium seemed to affect the Spanish champions in a first-half littered with errors.
Villarreal had the best chance of the opening half when Denis Cheryshev burst clear but opted to go for goal himself rather than square to the unmarked Vietto and Moya made a comfortable save.
Mario Mandzukic had a wonderful chance to continue his fine goalscoring form when he latched onto Diego Godin's knockdown after the break, but former Atletico keeper Asenjo bravely blocked the Croatian's effort from point black range.
Moments later Mandzukic was denied by referee Pedro Jesus Perez Montero as he harshly ruled out the former Bayern Munich man's headed finish for a push on Mario Gaspar.
In their push for a winner, though, Atletico were leaving themselves exposed on the counter and were only pardoned by a poor touch from Vietto when he was this time released clean through on goal by Cheryshev.
The Argentine's mis-control allowed Moya to get a vital touch before Diego Godin completed the clearance.
Atletico were thankful to another fine stop from Moya to prevent Cheryshev opening the scoring with a piledriver from a narrow angle.
Yet, there was nothing he could do to prevent Vietto inflicting a first league defeat at home in 19 months when he turned Godin and fired high into the net six minutes from time.
Earlier, Sevilla's hopes of securing a return to the Champions League next season suffered a blow as they were held 0-0 at home by a resilient Eibar at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
A point means Sevilla remain in fourth, but are now only two points in front of Valencia, whilst Eibar move up to ninth.