In order to keep their UEFA Women’s Champions League dream alive, Levante UD Feminino had to find a way past perennial title challengers Atlético Madrid Femenino on Thursday. Not only did they manage to do that but they also raised eyebrows with a fantastic performance that saw them score three goals and concede none against one of the best teams in Spain.
As previously mentioned, a formidable battle was shaping up between six teams for what will likely be second place in the Primera Iberdrola but if FC Barcelona Femení fail to win their games in hand, that battle for second (and the third spot which leads to European football next season) could become a title race instead. Barcelona may have too much quality for that to happen but if they do slip up, Levante have shown that they are ready to make this season a fruitful one for themselves.
Levante welcomed Atlético to Valencia looking to cement their spot in third with a win. Even with the blustery and cold conditions, the home side showed a collective unity and precision to slice apart Atleti time and time again. The first goal of the game came in the 21st minute when Levante pulled apart the Atleti backline, leaving Esther to race threw down the right flank. She then picked up her head a put in a great square pass that Estefanía Banini tapped home from close range. The ease with which Levante had managed to cut through Atlético in that sequence should have been a warning sign for Dani González’ side but they did not heed it.
The biggest chance of the game for Atlético came during the first half when a corner was headed down towards goal but goalkeeper Maria López made a great save from almost point blank range to keep her team in the lead going into half time.
Even with the break, Levante continued to impress and added two more goals to their tally thanks to Alba Redondo. Aïssatou Tounkara was caught on the ball in her own half in the 50th minute and Redondo raced forward before curling her effort past Hedvig Lindahl for Levante’s second. Atleti’s defensive woes were at fault once again for the third as substitute Alejandra Bernabe coughed up the ball to Sandie Toletti who then unselfishly passed to Redondo for her second of the game.
Levante were well worth their victory as they showed a determination and a hunger that Las Rojiblancas did not match at any point during this match. In fact, Atleti were reduced to shots from outside the box as they could not pick their way past Levante’s back five. The hosts turned that back five into a 3-5-2 effectively when they had the ball and put in a performance that told the rest of the league that they were here to stay at the top of the table. Given how this season has turned out so far, Levante really could find themselves playing Champions League football next season, at the expense of Atlético Madrid. What a story that would be.
- Although their win wasn’t as enticing as Levante’s, Real Madrid Femenino did enough to win against Santa Teresa CD. On another day, Sofia Jakobsson could’ve had a hat trick but she had to settle for being the creator of Real’s only goal of the game in stoppage time. Her cross found the head of Lorena Navarro how angled her neck enough to put the ball beyond Santa Teresa’s goalkeeper. The three points leaves them in second, level with Levante and two points off the league leaders Barcelona. Real Madrid aren’t quite ready yet to challenge for the title but making it into the Champions League in their first season as the women’s side for Real Madrid will be exactly what the club would have expected. They’re right on course for that.
- Madrid CFF are still in the conversation for a continental spot and like their city counterparts, found the one goal they needed to get all three points against Sevilla FC Femenino. Madrid have yet to fade away from this push for a European spot (aka the Top 3 race) and continue to pick up points no matter who they play against.
- Real Sociedad Femenino were in scintillating form against Real Betis Féminas as they produced a five goal performance at home against the visitors. Betis managed a consolation goal in the 44th minute but it was all Sociedad from the first whistle to the final one. Maitane López Millán kicked off the goals with one in the 21st minute, Gemma Gili made it two in the 56th minute, Nerea Eizaguirre popped up with the third in the 64th minute and two stoppage time goals from Sanni Franssi and substitute Cecilia Marcos wrapped things up nicely for the Basque side. Sociedad sit in sixth after their second win in five and within four of Real Madrid and Levante. They too are expected to fade away as the season wears on but so far, they have shown enough resilience to stay within touching distance of a continental spot.
- UD Granadilla Tenerife did not play during the week and are one game behind those fighting for a European spot next season. They are however level on points with Sociedad and remain very much a team in the hunt.
Note: In a previous article, I had stated that the top two teams in Spain would qualify for Champions League football next season. That isn’t the case anymore and now the top three teams will play in Europe next season.