Real Madrid narrow gap as Atletico lose to Levante

Atletico Madrid’s title challenge suffered another setback as they were beaten 2-0 at home by Levante on Saturday.

The result, coupled with Real Madrid’s 1-0 win at Real Valladolid, sees Atletico’s lead at the top of La Liga cut to three points with a game in hand, when just two weeks ago it looked as if they were running away with the league.

Atletico and Levante had drawn 1-1 in Valencia in midweek, so surprise was no excuse for Atletico as they once again found it hard to break Paco Lopez’s well-drilled side, and Atletico’s tactic of using three central defenders with Marcos Llorente as a wing-back didn’t work, although Llorente was probably Atletico’s best player, Xinhua news reports.

Levante had a big stroke of luck as Jose Luis Morales opened the scoring after the ball deflected off two Atletico defenders.

Luis Suarez saw a free-kick bounce back off the post, but Atletico looked flat, and after Jan Oblak had gone forward for a corner in injury-time, Jorge Frutos was able to advance into space and put the ball into an empty net to seal an excellent win for Levante.

Casemiro’s 65th-minute header decided a tight game for an injury-hit Real Madrid in Valladolid, where Thibaut Courtois kept Madrid in the game with a series of excellent saves. Mariano Diaz had two goals ruled out for offside in the first half.

Manu Vallejo’s 94th-minute goal gifted Valencia a much-needed home win over Celta Vigo, who had to play with 10 men for almost half an hour after keeper Ruben Blanco was sent off for a foul outside the box.

Kevin Gameiro sealed all three points in Valencia’s late show when he netted their second goal in the eighth minute of injury-time.

Fran Escriba enjoyed a winning return as coach of Elche after leading the La Liga strugglers to a 1-0 victory at home to Eibar, who are also now firmly locked in a battle to avoid relegation.

Dani Calvo’s 33rd minute goal in what was Elche’s only clear chance decided the game as Eibar failed to threaten after the break.

Borja Iglesias’ late penalty kept Real Betis’s charge for a top-six finish on track as they beat Getafe 1-0.

Getafe has now lost five of their last six games in which they have netted just once, as they continue to slide towards the relegation zone.

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