Atletico Madrid slipped to a surprise 2-0 defeat to Levante at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday afternoon, blowing the title race wide open in La Liga.
Los Rojiblancos dominated the game from start to finish, but couldn’t find a way past an inspired Dani Cardenas, who pulled off 11 saves over the course of the 90 minutes. And they were punished for their wastefulness by Levante, who took the lead against the run of play after half an hour through Jose Luis Morales.
The forward pounced on a loose ball in the box and lashed a shot towards goal, but his effort took a huge deflection on its journey, looping over Jan Oblak and into the net.
The hosts spent the next hour huffing and puffing, trying to get back into the game, but they couldn’t beat Cardenas, who kept out efforts from Jose Gimenez, Mario Hermoso and Luis Suarez.
Suarez also struck the post from a free-kick, as Atleti crept closer to the goal they craved.
Cardenas’ 11th save of the match in the second minute of injury time was an absolute cracker, sprawling down to his right to palm away Thomas Lemar’s wonderfully struck volley from the edge of the box.
Suarez had the chance to equalise a minute later, bringing down a long ball with superb control, but his strike was wild and it flew over the crossbar, as the possibility of an equaliser began to slip away from the hosts.
The game reached a dramatic conclusion however, as Atleti pushed to snatch a crucial late goal, and goalkeeper Oblak flew into the penalty area to compete for a corner kick. The shot-stopper felt he was fouled in the box, but his pleas were ignored, allowing the ball to break to Levante’s Jorge De Frutos just inside his own half.
The winger took a couple of steps into the Atleti half, and placed a long-range curler towards goal, which trickled over the line to confirm the three points for the visitors, and break Rojiblancos hearts in the process.
The defeat leaves Diego Simeone’s side six points ahead of the chasing pack, although Real Madrid could close the gap to three with victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday evening. The title race looked done and dusted, but it’s beginning to hot up in Spain, after all.