≡ Menu

Title Race Heats Up As Both Atleti And Barça Drop Points

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to move top of Spain’s La Liga after being held 1-1 at home to Sevilla on Sunday.

Earlier, Lionel Messi’s first league start of 2014 couldn’t inspire Barcelona to victory as they could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Levante.

That meant a win would take Atletico two points clear at the top and they appeared on their way to victory when David Villa opened the scoring on 18 minutes.

However, the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty when Juanfran pulled Carlos Bacca’s jersey 17 minutes from time and Ivan Rakitic coolly converted from the spot.

A point for both the leaders means they now lead third-placed Real Madrid by just one point.

Buoyed by Barcelona’s result earlier in the evening, Atletico started brightly and nearly took the lead in spectacular fashion when Diego Costa fired into the side-netting from fully 35 yards.

However, it took just 18 minutes for Diego Simeone’s team to make the breakthrough as Diego Godin headed Gabi’s corner back into the heart of the area, where Villa found space to fire home his first goal since November.

Sevilla reacted well to going behind and came close to levelling before the break as Coke’s in-swinging effort flew just past the post.

Unai Emery’s men continued to press after the break but hadn’t been able to creat a clear-cut opportunity until Juanfran was adjudged to have pulled Bacca to the ground as they jostled at the back post. Rakitic slotted home his ninth goal of the season.

And despite the visitors being reduced to ten men in the final minute as Alberto Moreno saw red for a late challenge on Raul Garcia, Atletico couldn’t find the goal they needed to take them to the summit.

Barcelona were also frustrated at Levante as Joaquin Caparros’s men gained some measure of revenge for being beaten 7-0 by the Catalans earlier this season.

Loukas Vyntra got the hosts off to the best possible start as he headed low past Victor Valdes from Andreas Ivanschitz’s cross after ten minutes.

The lead only lasted nine minutes as the visitors levelled in similar circumstances when Gerard Pique climbed highest to head home Xavi’s corner.

Thereafter, though, Barça struggled to create opportunities against Levante’s back five in the first period, with Xavi’s drive from the edge of the box that drifted wide their best effort from open play.

Gerardo Martino’s men were more precise in their build-up play after the break.

However, even when they did find a way through Levante’s mass ranks of defence, goalkeeper Keylor Navas came to his side’s rescue as he made fine saves from Cesc Fabregas, Messi and Cristian Tello.

Navas had to be at his best to deny Messi registering his first league goal since September on the hour mark after he had been played in by a neat one-two with Fabregas, before Juanfran blocked Xavi’s follow-up effort on the line.

Juanfran again put his body on the line to turn another goal-bound effort from Messi behind moments later. However, Levante maintained a threat on the counter-attack and Valdes had to get down to hold Ivanschitz’s header from Ruben Garcia’s cross.

Ivanschitz forced Valdes into another flying save 15 minutes from time as Barça left themselves exposed by pouring forward in search of a winner.

However, they came desperately close to that winner five minutes from time when Tello’s curling effort was brilliantly turned behind by Navas.

Elsewhere, a third-minute goal from Ikechukwu Uche and a late Bruno penalty gave Villareal a 2-0 win over Almeria. Goals from Pedro Leon and Ciprian Marica gave Getafe a 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad who took an early lead with a brace from Imanol Agirretxe.