La Liga: Real Madrid close gap after Barcelona and Atletico Madrid draw

The top two teams both missed a chance to break clear

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both stumbled to draws on Sunday, tightening the Spanish league title race with Real Madrid now only one point behind the co-leaders.

Barcelona's potent attack led by Lionel Messi was held 1-1 at Levante, leaving the door open for Atletico to later claim sole possession of the league lead.

But Atletico conceded a second-half penalty at home against Sevilla to also finish 1-1 and squander its chance to rise to the sole lead in the standings for the first time since September 2010.

"We had a good opportunity, but this is a long race," said Atletico defender Filipe Luis. "It's very difficult to compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona."

Madrid trailed the co-leaders by five points two rounds ago, but while they have kept on winning— most recently with a 5-0 rout of bottom-side Real Betis on Saturday— Barcelona and Atletico drew with one another last round and have slipped again just past the season's midway mark.

Levante went ahead through Loukas Vyntra's 10th-minute header, and its staunch defense did enough to take a measure of vengeance for the 7-0 thrashing Barcelona dealt the team in the season opener.

Gerard Pique leveled for Barcelona in the 19th, but Levante defender Juanfran Garcia saved the visitors' two best chances in the second half.

"We were unlucky because we created scoring chances," Messi said. "We did everything possible to win."

Elsewhere, striker Ikechukwu Uche scored his sixth goal in his last three league games to help Villarreal beat Almeria 2-0, while Getafe erased a two-goal deficit to earn a 2-2 draw at home with Real Sociedad.

Far from the side that Barcelona humiliated in August, Levante lived up to its reputation as one of the league's best defenses by packing its area and largely limiting the visitors to long strikes that either crashed into bodies or sailed harmlessly wide.

Joaquin Caparros' side claimed the early lead when Vyntra rose up over Pique to head Andreas Ivanschitz's corner kick down and beyond the diving goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Pique made up for his slack marking by scoring an almost exact replica of the opener, jumping higher than a pair of defenders to redirect Xavi Hernandez's corner inside the far post.

Messi, in his fourth game back after a long injury layoff, worked a one-two passing combination in close quarters with Cesc Fabregas to manufacture Barcelona's best chance in the 59th, but goalkeeper Keylor Navas saved Messi's shot. Garcia was well positioned to block Xavi's follow-up attempt, and three minutes later the center back used his foot to turn away Messi's goal-bound strike.

Barcelona's frustrating night was summed up when Fabregas violently struck the dugout cover after coach Gerardo Martino replaced him with Sergio Roberto in the 73rd.

With Neymar and Andres Iniesta both unavailable due to injury, Martino turned to Cristian Tello and B-team forward Jean Dongou as late substitutes. But Navas palmed Tello's late attempt wide to protect the point.

"In our first meeting (with Barcelona) it felt like a tribute game to Neymar in his debut," Caparros said. "My team has changed a lot because you can't make a team in a day, not even in two or four months."

Atletico started brightly when David Villa rifled in a clearance by Sevilla goalkeeper Antonio "Beto" Bastos in the 18th at Vicente Calderon Stadium.

But Atletico didn't seriously threaten to extend its advantage and it was undone when defender Juanfran Torres pulled Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca down by his shirt in the area.

Ivan Rakitic fired the spot kick into the corner of the net, just out of the reach of goalie Thibaut Courtois for the 73rd-minute equalizer.

Sevilla finished with 10 men when Alberto Moreno was sent off with a straight red card for a low tackle in the 89th.

"The draw is a pity," Courtois said. "We knew Barcelona's result before the game. It's too bad. When you go up 1-0 you hope to keep a clean sheet and win the match. It's tough, but that's the way it is."

Uche's strike against lowly Almeria was his 12th league goal this season, tying him with Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann as the competition's third-leading scorers.

Villarreal provisionally moved into fourth place with its third straight victory. Athletic Bilbao can reclaim Spain's last Champions League spot when it plays Valladolid on Monday.

Reuters

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss