Tue, May 06, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Liga up in the air as Real held, Atletico blanked 2-0

AFP, MADRID

Real Madrid’s Angel di Maria reacts after missing a chance to score against Valencia in their La Liga match at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Valencia dealt a huge blow to Real Madrid’s La Liga title hopes on Sunday when they held los Blancos to a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The result dropped Real to third and was all the more bitter because it came after Liga leaders Atletico Madrid had fallen 2-0 in a shock defeat away to Levante UD earlier in the day, a score that had put an historic treble within Real’s reach.

Despite Cristiano Ronaldo rescuing a point for Real with a stunning injury-time equalizer, Atletico now need just four points from their last two games to win their first Liga in 18 years.

“It makes things more difficult, but I have always said this league will be decided in the last game,” Real boss Carlo Ancelotti said.

On Sunday, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale nearly combined for the opener after just three minutes when the Portuguese latched onto his Welsh teammate’s pass, only to shoot straight at Diego Alves.

Karim Benzema then headed just over the post, before los Che countered in the 16th minute when Diego Lopez turned Dani Parejo’s header onto the bar.

Ronaldo then had a trio of efforts parried by Alves, but the visitors broke well again minutes before halftime and after Lopez turned Sofiane Fegouli’s fierce drive over, Jeremy Mathieu bundled the ball home from the resulting corner.

After the break, Real laid siege to the visitors’ goal and after Alves made another brilliant save to deny Ronaldo, los Blancos finally found a way past the Brazilian when Ramos headed home from close range.

Yet the hosts were only level for five minutes, before Parejo put Valencia back in front.

Ronaldo snatched what may be turn out to be a crucial point for his side in a moment of magic in the second minute of extra time when he backheeled Angel di Maria’s cross for his 50th of the season.

At the Estadio Ciutat de Valencia, Atletico lost for the first time in 15 games in all competitions in a match overshadowed by more claims of racism just a week after a banana was thrown at Barcelona fullback Dani Alves.

Levante midfielder Pape Diop said he was the subject of “monkey” chants from Atletico fans during Sunday’s match.

Diop outraged Atletico players by dancing in front of the disconsolate traveling fans at the final whistle.

However, the Senegalese said he was just responding to monkey chants aimed at him in stoppage-time.

“I went to take a corner and some of the Atletico fans began to make monkey chants. To play it down, I started to dance, but I didn’t insult anyone,” he said. “I don’t have anything against the Atletico fans because it was only a section that shouted.”

Despite losing to los Granotes, Atletico coach Diego Simeone believes his side still have much to look forward to in their remaining three games in all competitions.

“This defeat is the best thing that could happen to us. We now have three weeks of high intensity and emotion ahead of us,” he said.

Atletico were chasing the game almost from the off on Sunday as a corner from the right struck Filipe Luis on the chest and rebounded past the helpless Thibaut Courtois.

The visitors threw everything at the Levante goal in the search for an equalizer, but could not find a way past an inspired Keylor Navas.

Atletico were then dealt a sucker punch when David Barral put Victor Casadesus’ ball into the net.

Also on Sunday, Villarreal drew Sevilla 0-0 and UD Almeria edged Real Betis Balompie 3-2.

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