Real Madrid and Atlético fail to capitalize after Barcelona surprised by Levante
VALENCIA: Real Madrid & Atletico Madrid everyone missed the opportunity to go to the top the league on Saturday after Barcelona conceded three goals in seven minutes during a surprise 3-1 defeat by I raised .
Lionel Messi converted a first-half penalty at the City of Valencia Stadium for his sixth goal in five games only for I raised to stun the defending champions with an incredible treble shortly after the hour.
Yet Atletico & Sevilla played out a 1-1 draw at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Diego Costa missed a penalty, before Real squandered a string of opportunities at the Santiago Bernabeu in a goalless draw against Real Betis.
It means Barca will be relieved to stay at the summit - ahead of Atletico by a point with a game in hand & in front of Real on goal difference - even if their collapse against I raised should offer encouragement to their title rivals.
Meanwhile, Granada will surpass them all if they beat Real Sociedad on Sunday.
"Everything unravelled," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. "We didn't start the second half well, we weren't creating chances & although they weren't either they suddenly scored two goals. The third one hurt us a lot."
Jose Campana & Borja Mayoral scored in the 61st & 63rd minutes before Nemanja Radoja added a third in the 68th to leave their disheveled opponents with too much to do.
After seven rebound victories in all competitions, Barça arrived in Valencia as overwhelming favorites, particularly given the irresistible form of Messi, whose goal was the 500th of his career with his left foot.
Opponents always play us as if it were one of the biggest games of the year, Valverde added. You have to have an answer.
After any defeat in Barcelona, the future of Valverde is a topic of discussion. When asked if he was surprised by his players or if he could consider resignation, he said: No, to both questions.
To make matters worse, Luis Suarez was forced off in the 41st minute with an injury to his right calf & would now appear to be a doubt for Tuesday's Champions League game at home to Slavia Prague.
An unfortunate half for Suarez had seen him reserved for a foul committed by Arthur Melo, but referee Hernández Hernández corrected his mistake after VAR warned him.
Messi swept home his penalty after Jorge Miramon brought down Nelson Semedo & Messi might have made it two, but this time Miramon restored some credit by clearing off the line.
I raised began the second half on the front foot but nobody could have predicted what was to follow. First, Pique's under-hit clearance was punished, as Mayoral & Jose Luis Morales shifted the ball inside to Campana, who struck hard into the corner.
Then a loose Carles Perez header allowed Mayoral space & he did brilliantly to curl past the outstretched right hand of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
With the home fans still celebrating, Radoja made it three. Barcelona again failed to clear & Radoja's effort might have been saved had Sergio Busquets, on as a substitute, not caused a cruel deflection.
Messi thought he had launched a comeback when he bundled through & poked in but Antoine Griezmann was offside & I raised might even have made it four late on if Gonzalo Melero been more precise.
It left Real Madrid , Atletico & Sevilla all with the chance to claim top spot but none seized the initiative.
Real are yet to establish a consistent run of results, even if they created more than enough chances to beat Betis & on another day might have scored five.
Eden Hazard saw a much-needed goal ruled out & Sergio Ramos went close too before Karim Benzema skewed wide at the back post from four yards.
The best opportunity fell to Ferland Mendy but, with only Joel Robles to beat, he lifted his finish up, over & wide. Hazard had waved Mendy through & might have wondered why he did not take the ball himself.
Betis rode their luck, particularly when Zouhair Feddal handled in the box, while Vinicius Junior & Ramos hit the goalkeeper amid mad scrambles in injury-time.
Atlético will also regret the lost opportunities, with Costa more guilty, his 72-minute penalty saved by Tomás Vaclik after Álvaro Morata canceled Franco Vázquez's first game.