In the midst of the closest title race that La Liga has seen in several years, Barcelona had little room for error.

Unfortunately for them, they made several against Levante which could well define their season.

After Real Madrid drew 2-2 with Sevilla at the weekend, Barca knew that a win at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia would hand them a huge psychological advantage and see them go clear at the top of the table.

While title rivals Real and Atletico would still have a game in hand, the Blaugrana would hold the high ground in the three-way battle to be crowned champions of Spain.

A volley from Lionel Messi and a simple finish from Pedri left Barca with a 2-0 lead at half time and, for 40 minutes or so, they looked to be headed for the summit.

Then, midway through the second half, Levante scored two goals in as many minutes via Gonzalo Melero and Jose Luis Morales.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona dejected after second goal of Levante
Lionel Messi of Barcelona dejected after second goal of Levante

The first was the result of lax defending, while the latter came after a rare miscue from Messi in midfield.

Even more frustrating for Barca was that, having taken back the lead thanks to a rocket from Ousmane Dembele, Levante made it 3-3 when Sergio Leon got in front of Gerard Pique and flicked one in at the near post.

It’s not the first time that Barca have dropped crucial points from a winning position this season – they lost 2-1 to Granada after conceding two second-half goals late last month – but their draw with Levante could be definitive.

They are now one point behind Atletico in top spot and one ahead of Real in third, but both Madrid sides have three games to play where Barca have two remaining.

Lionel Messi looks dejected after Levante's third goal
Is this the end of Barca's title hopes?

Speaking after the match, midfield talisman Sergio Busquets admitted that their chances of winning the title have plummeted. “It feels terrible,” he said. “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.

“They made it difficult for 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. There are very few options for us to win the league now.

“It is our fault tonight and we take responsibility and we allow teams to score too easily against us.”

Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, admitted that he was at a loss as to how Barcelona had squandered their first-half lead. “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.

“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.”

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