Atletico title hopes rocked as new racism row hits La Liga
La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid suffered a huge blow to their chances of a first title in 18 years on Sunday when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Levante in a game overshadowed by racism claims.
Filipe Luis' own goal after just seven minutes got the Champions League finalists off to the worst possible start and they were then denied time and again by the inspired Keylor Navas in the Levante goal.
And in their push for an equaliser, Diego Simeone's men were caught on the counter-attack 21 minutes from time when David Barral slotted home from Victor Casadesus' cross.
However, the match was overshadowed by more claims of racism in Spanish football as just a week after a banana was thrown at Barcelona full-back Dani Alves, Levante midfielder Pape Diop said he had been the subject of monkey chants from the Atletico fans.
Diop provoked outrage among the Atletico players by dancing in front of the disconsolate travelling fans at the final whistle.
However, the Senegalese said he was just responding to monkey chants aimed towards him as he took a corner deep into 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. It is a lack of respect that happens in all stadiums. I don't know if you can call it racist, but the monkey chanting has to stop."
Atletico will still be crowned champions if they win their remaining two games at home to Malaga and away to Barcelona on the last day of the season, but any more slip-ups will allow Real Madrid the chance to take the title should they win their remaining four games.
And, despite the defeat, Simeone believes they still have much to look forward to in their remaining three games in all competitions this season.
"This defeat is the best thing that could happen to us. We now have three weeks of high intensity and emotion ahead of us," said the Argentine.
"It is an ideal moment for the players. We have three fantastic weeks to come."
- Momentous week -
Atletico had enjoyed a momentous week as they progressed to the Champions League final for only the second time in their history with a 3-1 win over Chelsea on Wednesday.
However, they were chasing the game almost from the off as a corner from the right struck Luis on the chest and rebounded past the helpless Thibaut Courtois.
Navas then produced the first of a string of fine saves as he parried Raul Garcia's effort from close range and David Villa blazed the rebound wastefully over.
The Costa Rican international then did well to turn Toby Alderweireld's low effort to safety as Atletico ended the first-half on top.
Simeone introduced two of the goalscorers in midweek, Arda Turan and Adrian Lopez, at half-time in a bid to turn the game around and Atletico laid seige to the Levante goal early on in the second-half.
Turan saw a shot blocked when well-placed inside the area before a header from the Turkish international looped just over the bar.
Luis then nearly made amends for his own goal when he saw a shot cleared off the line before Diego Costa just failed to convert Diego Ribas' dangerous free kick and Navas produced another wonderful save from a deflected Alderweireld effort.
Atletico were then struck with a sucker punch as Levante broke upfield and Barral was on hand to turn home Casadesus' low ball into the box.
The visitors' luck in front of goal was summed up moments later when Adrian's curling effort came back off the post and rebounded to safety.
There was to be no heroic comeback from Atletico in the final quarter as their first defeat in 15 games in all competitions left the title race wide open.
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