Curse of the Ciutat kills off Atletico’s title challenge

The Madrilenians lost 2-1 on their trip to Levante, who are already relegated, kissing goodbye to their hopes of winning the Liga BBVA title.

A flying start
Atletico Madrid started off playing with real intensity, well aware of what was at stake in Valencia against Levante UD, whose relegation fate was sealed on the previous matchday. Diego Simeone’s men threw bodies forward from the off and were rewarded for their early domination with a magnificent goal just 2 minutes in. Koke’s superb vision allowed him to pick out Fernando Torres with a perfect pass and the Spaniard clipped the ball over the top of the onrushing home keeper, Diego Mariño. The goal gave Atletico some peace of mind and instantly wiped out the nerves among the visitors’ ranks.

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An unencumbered Levante react
Following Torres’ opener, an unencumbered Levante side started to stretch their lines and close in on Jan Oblak’s goal, whilst Atletico looked more relaxed a goal to the good. The pressure by the home team started to cause problems for the Atletico defence and the chances began to blossom. Oblak denied Levante a leveller off their first opportunity, but was powerless to stop the header of Victor Casadesus off Mauricio Cuero’s cross – a goal which put a serious dent in Atletico’s title aspirations.

Atletico pull out the big guns
The Rojiblancos were under the cosh at the Ciutat de Valencia and as soon as the second half got underway Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco came on in a bid to reverse the dynamic. As occurred in the previous game against Malaga CF, Griezmann’s presence immediately galvanised his side, and the Frenchman came close to making it 2-1 in a lethal counter-attack orchestrated by Carrasco. Only a magnificent save by Mariño prevented the ball from striking the back of the net.

Tiredness takes its toll
Atletico needed to press for a goal to keep themselves in the race for the Liga BBVA title, but began to suffer the effects of their exertions in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against FC Bayern Munich. In the closing stages, Atleti surged forward in search of a winner that would allow them to head into the final matchday with a clear chance of being crowned champions, but the Levante defence held firm.

The curse of the Ciutat de Valencia continues
Atletico were the team pushing hardest to score, but just when the visitors were throwing everything including the kitchen sink at their opponents, their title hopes were obliterated by a lightning-quick counter. Jose Luis Morales ran the ball to the edge of the area, before ceding it to Giuseppe Rossi, who beat Oblak with a shot just inside the post to give Levante the win. The final score made it five seasons without a victory at the Ciutat de Valencia for Atletico – a rotten run of results which leaves them out of contention for the title.