The 2014/15 season was well into the business end when leaders Atletico Madrid went to Levante UD on 4 May 2014, despite the fixture having been dominated by Atletico Madrid making Levante the underdogs.
Levante were always likely to make awkward opponents for Atletico. The visitors knew that two victories from their final three league matches would be enough to secure their first league title since 1996.
Leading up to the match Atletico were on paper the favourites however they are notorious for coming incredibly close to winning titles and trophies, only to lose in the final stages. As a result, they are often referred to as El Pupas, which translates to ‘the jinxed ones.’
At this point in the season, Atletico were ahead of FC Barcelona by four points with Barcelona having drawn their last match against Getafe. A win here would mean that Los Rojiblancos would open up a 6 points gap between themselves and the Catalans with two matches to play, including a clash between both teams in the last game of the season.
Levante’s African influence: A goal and a clean sheet
The Champions League finalists trailed after just seven minutes, when left-back Felipe Luis deflected in Papakouli ‘Pape’ Diop’s corner. Diop whipped in a cross from the right corner which was missed by Atletico’s defenders at the front post and inadvertently turned home by the Brazilian international’s chest for the first goal of the game. The Senegalese’s impressive defensive abilities earned him 19 appearances for Levante that season, he has gone on to represent ‘The Lions of Taranga’ in the 2015 and 2017 African Cup of Nations
Atletico should have drew level in the 14th minute however Raúl García saw his close-range shot saved by Navas and David Villa sky the rebound over the crossbar.
Thirty minutes into the game, Atletico’s Diego Costa and Levante’s Mohamed Sissoko clashed after the forward appeared to push his head into Sissoko. Referee José González took no action and the two were lucky to stay on the pitch.
The French-born Sissoko could have elected to play for France but instead chose to play for the national side of his ancestral country, Mali. Sissoko has made 34 official appearances for Mali, and has scored 2 goals. He finished fourth in the 2004 African Cup of Nations, and third in the 2013 African Cup of Nations. The midfielder has had an illustrious club career having played for the likes of Valencia, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He’s style of play has seen him compared to French great Patrick Viera.
In an attempt to try and get some points for the team, Adrián López and Arda Turan were called onto the field for Atletico. The two definitely made an impact as both took the opportunity to try and score a goal – although their attempts were futile. Top scorer Costa was next to go close, but he was unable to divert a Diego cross on goal, and moments later Alderweireld saw Navas claw another long-range effort out. Levante broke away from defending and saw their efforts rewarded as Victor found Barral and held off a challenge, firing low past Thibaut Courtois to score the home side’s second goal.
The hosts were determined to keep the visitors at pay this was evident when Simão Mate Junior picked up a caution late in the game. The Mozambican international was an integral part of the Levante defence from the 2012 to 2015/16 season. He made 30 career appearances for Mozambique from his debut in 2007 and even represented them at the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola.
Simeone’s side looked to have ran out of ideas and they were unable to muster any further openings, as Levante mathematically secured their top-flight status and provided a huge boost to Atletico’s title rivals.
Atletico finally beat their jinx
This loss didn’t put out the fire and tenacity of Simeone’s team, as they still went on to win the league title after drawing with Barcelona in the last match of the fixture. 18 years after their last title win, Atletico was finally able to beat their jinx and win their 10th LaLiga championship. Levante finished in the top half of the table, a very impressive spot for the side from Valencia.