Barcelona threw away a 2-0 lead and saw their La Liga title hopes suffer a major setback as they drew 3-3 at Levante.
Lionel Messi put the visitors ahead with a well-controlled low volley before they doubled their lead when Pedri latched onto an Ousmane Dembele cross following Messi’s neat through ball.
However, just when you thought the game was all but over already, Gonzalo Melero headed one back and Jose Luis Morales volleyed in to make it for 2-2.
Barcelona definitely thought that this time the lead with Dembele’s powerful shot was secure, but Sergio Leon snatched a late equaliser for Levante, 7 minutes from time to disrupt Barcelona’s title charge as they now sit 1 point behind leaders Atletico Madrid having played an extra game.
Barca did move up to second, above Real Madrid, but would have gone top with a victory. This is the third time this season that the Catalans have squandered a chance to lead the league and Ronald Koeman’s side will be kicking themselves especially after this game for throwing a 2-goal lead.
Atletico have three matches left and will become Spanish champions for the first time since 2013-14 if they win all of them.
Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets admitted his side’s chances of winning La Liga for the 27th time, were now slim.
“There are very few options for us to win the league now,” he said.
“It feels terrible. We weren’t able to win the game, we started well, got the advantage and the second goal, but could not get a third. As has happened too many times, errors have cost us.
“The point means very little to us. We weren’t precise with our passing and they took full advantage. We had our chances but we paid for our mistakes – we’ve not had a good second half.
“It is our fault and we take responsibility – we allow teams to score too easily against us.”
Koeman puzzled by Barcelona’s performance
Barcelona looked completely in control after scoring twice in the opening 34 minutes, against a Levante side who needed one point to be certain of avoiding relegation.
However, with full-back Sergi Roberto coming on and going into an unfamiliar central defensive position, Ronald Koeman’s side began to look disconnected defensively and ended up conceding twice in three minutes to give up their advantage.
Melero rose above the Barcelona defence to head home a goal wonderfully and then Messi uncharacteristically gave the ball away just 30 yards from his own goal with Morales volleying in Levante’s first equaliser with a top strike.
Dembele’s goal, awarded after a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check decided Antoine Griezmann had not fouled Levante’s Jorge Miramon, restored the away team’s lead, but Leon got ahead of Gerard Pique to flick in a late, dramatic third goal that secured the home team’s spot in next season’s first division.
“In the second half we lacked intensity and I don’t know what I did wrong at the half-time period as we were superior in the first half,” said Koeman.
“They surprised us by scoring three goals and I have no explanation – I don’t know why it happened.
“In terms of intensity, we dropped and got over-relaxed. The whole team defensively was not at the level required. Conceding three goals in 45 minutes is too many for this team.”
Barcelona won the Copa del Rey last month but went out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage, and could miss out on the Spanish title for a second successive season.
Atletico will go four points clear if they win their game in hand on Wednesday at home against fifth-placed Real Sociedad, before Real Madrid play at Granada on Thursday.
This title race is still far from over and Barca need lots of luck to stay in the hunt for the title.