Barcelona upset at Levante 3-1; Madrid held 0-0 by Betis
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi’s penalty strike to give Barcelona the early lead wasn’t enough once complacency set in.
Barcelona paid the price for not seeking a second goal and coming out of halftime in sluggish fashion on Saturday when it was shocked by a Levante side that scored three goals in an eight-minute span.
Levante’s 3-1 upset win broke Barcelona’s run of seven victories in a row across all competitions and left its lead of the Spanish league at risk. Granada can jump ahead of the defending champion if it beats Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Atlético Madrid and Sevilla wasted their chance to leap to the top of the table when they drew 1-1 in an entertaining match in Seville. Real Madrid did so as well after it was held by Real Betis to 0-0 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
“It’s the reality of football, it is harder and harder to beat any team,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said about the slips by La Liga’s top teams. “Levante beat Barcelona, that shows you can’t take any game for an easy win. This level of competitiveness makes our league the best in the world.”
Madrid pulled level with Barcelona on points, with Barcelona ahead on goal difference. Atlético and Sevilla are both one point behind.
Barcelona hosts Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Tuesday. Madrid hosts Galatasaray on Wednesday, when Atlético visits Bayer Leverkusen.
THREE IN EIGHT
Messi converted a spot kick in the 38th minute after Nelson Semedo was tripped by Jorge Miramón in the box. The goal extended Messi’s scoring run to five consecutive games.
But Barcelona lost striker Luis Suárez to a right leg muscle injury before halftime and came out after the restart without any fire.
Levante’s first two goals both came after Barcelona booted aimless long balls from its area that were picked off by the host, which with one pass was already in striking position. José Campaña equalized and Borja Mayoral and Nemanja Radoja quickly added a goal each.
“Everything turned against us. We weren’t creating chances, and although they weren’t either, they scored two goals in two minutes,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “And the third goal did a lot of damage. We didn’t play well in the second half.”
The pressure will be back on Zinedine Zidane to make Madrid’s attack click.
Madrid was limited to strikes by Sergio Ramos before halftime and desperate late efforts in injury time from Vinicius Jr. and Daniel Carvajal. But Betis goalie Joel Robles saved them all.
“Our level of intensity and attitude were perfect, we just couldn’t find the goal,” Zidane said. “We dropped two points at home, but playing like this we will be fine.”
Madrid dropped points for the fifth time in 11 league games. It has also just won once in three Champions League matches.
Goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik helped save a point for Sevilla when he smothered Diego Costa’s spot kick and blocked the follow-up attempt by Jorge “Koke” Resurrección with the score at 1-1.
Sevilla took the lead from a free kick by Ever Banega that Franco Vázquez headed off the turf and past Jan Oblak, The Atlético goalie, usually so sure in the net, could have done more to stop the ball that went in off both hands.
But led by midfielder Thomas Partey with his runs forward from the midfield, the visitors increased the pace, and the scoring chances appeared for both sides.
Álvaro Morata leveled with half an hour to go when he headed in a cross by Santiago Arias by using his superior height to beat defender Jesús Navas at the far post.
“Atlético Madrid did more than enough to win this game,” Koke said. “This is a little strange, how the big teams aren’t winning.”
WINLESS AT HOME
Maxi Gómez scored with 10 minutes left to give Valencia a 2-1 victory and keep relegation-threatened Espanyol winless in all six league games it has played at home.
Rodrigo Moreno set up Gómez’s winner after earning a penalty for Dani Parejo to equalize from the spot.
Valencia hosts Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday.