The reigning La Liga champions missed a golden chance to make up ground on their rivals after conceding two penalties to relegation-threatened Levante
Image: NurPhoto/PA Images)
A trip to winless Levante represented an opportunity for Atletico Madrid to regain ground in the quest to retain their Spanish league title.
Dropped points against Alaves and Real Sociedad in recent weeks had left Diego Simeone and his team playing catch-up, and things got worse for them as their relegation-battling opponents salvaged a point with a last-minute penalty.
Simeone became the latest manager to see red in a big European league, following recent dismissals for the likes of Jose Mourinho and Luciano Spalletti in Serie A, when he was sent to the stands by referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes.
The result leaves Atletico down in sixth place in La Liga, with a big test against high-flyers Real Betis coming up on Sunday.
Levante took four points off the champions last season, with Enis Bardhi frustrating Simeone’s side at Ciutat de Valencia back in February, and the North Macedonia midfielder was the home side’s hero again.
Bardhi had already converted from the spot once to cancel out Antoine Griezmann’s first-half opener, only for Matheus Cunha to put the visitors back in front.
However, he got another opportunity from 12 yards when Renan Lodi was ruled to have handled, and kept his cool to find the bottom corner and beat Jan Oblak.
Simeone’s red card was awarded for a second yellow, and five of his players also went into the book as referee Gonzalez Fuertes was a busy man.
His dismissal comes after a slew of reds in Italy’s top tier, with Mourinho, Spalletti, Simone Inzaghi and Gian Piero Gasperini all handed recent suspensions.
One of Atletico’s bookings went the way of Angel Correa during the fall-out from the award of Levante’s second penalty, which was only confirmed after the referee consulted VAR, and nearly 10 minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the game.
Levante also picked up a red card of their own, but defender Rober was only shown his second yellow card after the final whistle.
Atletico find themselves down in sixth place after the evening’s games, five points off the top of the table, though they have a game in hand on some of the teams above them.
One of those sides, Real Betis, visit the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday two points ahead of the champions, having won their last three league games on the spin.
After their weekend test, Simeone’s side will travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool in the Champions League, where a defeat could see them drop to third in their group if results elsewhere go against them.
Levante, meanwhile, remain in the bottom three after extending their winless start to 11 games. However, they will hope the late point spurs them on ahead of a meeting with Granada on Monday,
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