Atletico Madrid's title ambitions took a hit on Saturday afternoon, as Valencia held los Rojiblancos to a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The home side dominated the opening 45 minutes but were left frustrated by a stubborn Valencia side until they were awarded a penalty following a handball incident in the box. Diego Costa dispatched the spot kick to give Atleti a half-time lead.
Valencia grew throughout the second half, and their intense pressure was rewarded in the final ten minutes when Dani Parejo curled a glorious free kick into the top corner to stun the hosts. Kang-in Lee received a late red card for the visitors following an awful challenge during an Atleti breakaway, but Valencia came way with a brilliant point to frustrate Diego Simeone's men.
Key Talking Point
You know what? Atleti were pretty easy on the eye on Saturday afternoon - during the first half anyway. Simeone has been accused of an inability to create an attacking side during his reign in Madrid, but with the introduction of Joao Felix, los Rojiblancos look a constant threat. The bad news? Felix got injured, and could be out for a while.
Simone started with a 4-4-2 formation, partnering Costa with Alvaro Morata, and Felix acting as the playmaker behind the pair. Atleti finally broke the deadlock through a penalty, but their boss will be furious that they let their levels drop in a difficult second half.
A real Jekyll and Hyde performance from Atleti today.
Starting XI: Oblak (8); Arias (7), Giménez (7), Felipe (7), Hermoso (7); Thomas (6), Koke (8), Saúl (9*), João Félix (8); Diego Costa (7), Morata (7)
Substitutes: Lemar (7), Lodi (7), Llorente (6)
STAR MAN - Does this guy ever get less than a seven out of ten? Saúl Ñíguez is Mr Consistent for Simeone, and he can always be relied on for a solid performance in los Rojiblancos' midfield. Saturday was just like any other day in that respect.
Saúl glides across the pitch, and his grace is incomparable when he's at his best. The Spain international was majestic in possession, helping his side go from back to front as quickly and efficiently as possible. Saúl and Koke are Simeone's beating heart on the pitch, and the Atleti boss is well represented by his warriors, week-in week-out.
Key Talking Point
What else could it be? You're down a goal, and you're awarded a free kick about 25 yards from goal. All that's needed is a calm head and a wand of a right foot to bend it over a daunting wall and beyond the giant frame of Jan Oblak. Easy, right?
Well, someone better tell Parejo that it's actually pretty complicated, because he made it look very simple indeed. The Spanish midfielder looked up, took a deep breath and whipped home an unstoppable set piece to send the Valencia supporters into dreamland. What a moment.
Starting XI: Cillessen (8); Wass (7), Garay (7), Gabriel (9*), Jaume (7); Parejo (8), Coquelin (7), Kondogbia (6); Ferran (5), Maxi Gómez (7), Cheryshev (6)
Substitutes: Gameiro (6), Soler (7), Lee (3)
STAR MAN - How much has he improved since his spell at Arsenal? Valencia ended up snatching a late point thanks to a superb free kick, but Gabriel Paulista's solid display was equally as vital. Gabriel found himself up against two very different strikers in Morata and Costa, but coped admirably against both.
Atleti looked rampant in the first half, but the Brazilian defender was a match for everything that was thrown in his direction. A penalty was Valencia's eventual undoing, but Gabriel kept the deficit down to one goal until the visitors took their timely chance to earn a valuable point.
Simeone's men will be keen to get back to winning ways when they host Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night and then welcome Athletic Bilbao to Madrid on Saturday.
Valencia follow up their tough trip to the Wanda Metropolitano with a Champions League fixture in France against Lille, before another away fixture at Osasuna on Sunday evening.