Jose Luis Morales and Jorge de Frutos were on target as Levante consigned LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid to a first home defeat since December 2019 in a shock 2-0 win on Saturday.
Atleti were held to a 1-1 draw at Levante in midweek and their title hopes suffered a big setback against the same opponents three days later.
Morales’ 12th goal of the season in the first half and Frutos’ effort on the counter-attack at the death ended the leaders’ run of 22 LaLiga games without defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano, giving second-placed Real Madrid the chance to reduce their advantage to only three points by beating Real Valladolid later on Saturday.
Luis Suarez struck the post with a stunning free-kick and Lucas Torreira had a goal ruled out as Diego Simeone’s side raised their game in the second half, but suffered only a second loss of the season in the top flight.
FT at the Wanda @Metropolitano.
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) February 20, 2021
Morales wasted a glorious chance to give Levante an early lead when he put a left-footed finish just wide of the far post after racing clear.
Suarez stung the palms of Levante goalkeeper Daniel Cardenas, but Atleti were punished for some slack defending when they fell behind on the half-hour mark.
Geoffrey Kondogbia was too casual when attempting to get hold of a loose ball in the penalty area and Morales capitalised, finding the back of the net with a right-footed strike that deflected off Mario Hermoso to give Jan Oblak no chance.
Ruben Rochina could have laid on a second for Morales, but his poor pass let a vulnerable looking Atleti defence off the hook before the break.
Thomas Lemar made his return early in the second half after recovering from coronavirus, replacing the injured Jose Gimenez, before Suarez rattled the post with a magnificent long-range free-kick.
Atleti were throwing everything at Levante and Cardenas denied Joao Felix from close range before Torreira had a goal ruled out due to a push from Suarez.
Joao Felix’s rasping drive was straight at Cardenas as Simeone’s men continued to knock at the door.
Lemar’s left-footed volley was superbly saved by Cardenas and Suarez blazed high and wide before de Frutos rubbed salt in Atleti’s wounds right at the end, surging down the right wing and finding an empty net from a long way out with Oblak up in search of an equaliser.
What does it mean? Atleti appear to be feeling the heat
Simeone said Atleti’s dropped points at Levante in midweek were not down to nerves, but they may be jangling this evening.
Their city rivals can turn up the heat if they secure victory later in the day and although Atleti will still have a game in hand, the pressure is most definitely on.
Levante had not won in 14 away matches against Atleti, losing 11 in a row, but ended that dismal run by consigning Simeone’s side to a first home defeat since Barcelona’s 1-0 victory almost 15 months ago.
Morales Levante’s main man
Skipper Morales missed a golden opportunity to put Levante in front early on, but did not dwell on that poor finish.
The forward’s opening goal was somewhat fortunate, but he deserved it for a lively display and now has 11 for the season in LaLiga – one of which came in another stunning 2-1 win against Zinedine Zidane’s champions at Santiago Bernabeu in January.
Kondogbia lapse costly
Midfielder Kondogbia really ought to have prevented Morales opening the scoring, failing to show enough desire to deal with a loose ball in the penalty area.
He did not provide a commanding presence in the middle of the park, losing possession on four occasions and making just one interception before he was hooked off by Simeone just after the hour-mark.
Atleti must regroup ahead of a Champions League round-of-16 first-leg clash at the neutral venue of Arena Nationala in Bucharest on Tuesday, while Levante are at home to Athletic Bilbao on Friday.