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BARCELONA

Atlético fail to cash in on Barça slip-up

Atlético Madrid missed the chance to move top of La Liga after being held 1-1 at home to Sevilla on Sunday.

Atlético fail to cash in on Barça slip-up
Atlético started brightly and nearly took the lead in spectacular fashion when Diego Costa fired into the side-netting from fully 35 yards. Photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/AFP

Earlier, Lionel Messi's first league start of 2014 couldn't inspire Barcelona to victory as they could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Levante.

That meant a win would take Atlético two points clear at the top and they appeared on their way to victory when David Villa opened the scoring on 18 minutes.

However, the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty when Juanfran pulled Carlos Bacca's jersey 17 minutes from time and Ivan Rakitic coolly converted from the spot.

A point for both the leaders means they now lead third-placed Real Madrid by just one point.

Buoyed by Barcelona's result earlier in the evening, Atlético started brightly and nearly took the lead in spectacular fashion when Diego Costa fired into the side-netting from fully 35 yards.

However, it took just 18 minutes for Diego Simeone's team to make the breakthrough as Diego Godin headed Gabi's corner back into the heart of the area, where Villa found space to fire home his first goal since November.

Sevilla reacted well to going behind and came close to levelling before the break as Coke's in-swinging effort flew just past the post.

Unai Emery's men continued to press after the break but hadn't been able to creat a clear-cut opportunity until Juanfran was adjudged to have pulled Bacca to the ground as they jostled at the back post. Rakitic slotted home his ninth goal of the season.

And despite the visitors being reduced to 10 men in the final minute as Alberto Moreno saw red for a late challenge on Raul Garcia, Atlético couldn't find the goal they needed to take them to the summit.

"We had a good chance to go top, but there is still a long way to go," said Atlético defender Filipe Luis.

"We are now a target and it is very difficult to compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona. The merit of what we have done can be seen in our opponents. Look at Sevilla, their bench celebrated the draw as if it was a final."

Barcelona were also frustrated at Levante as Joaquin Caparros's men gained some measure of revenge for being beaten 7-0 by the Catalans earlier this season.

Loukas Vyntra got the hosts off to the best possible start as he headed low past Victor Valdes from Andreas Ivanschitz's cross after 10 minutes.

The lead only lasted nine minutes as the visitors levelled in similar circumstances when Pique climbed highest to head home Xavi's corner.

Thereafter, though, Barca struggled to create opportunities against Levante's back five in the first period, with Xavi's drive from the edge of the box that drifted wide their best effort from open play.

Gerardo Martino's men were more precise in their build-up play after the break.

However, even when they did find a way through Levante's mass ranks of defence, goalkeeper Keylor Navas came to his side's rescue as he made fine saves from Cesc Fabregas, Messi and Cristian Tello.

"We created chances but we didn't have a good day in front of goal," said Barca boss Gerardo Martino.

"I don't think we should be worried looking to the future.

"There were games at the start of the season when we won and we didn't play very well. Today is completely the opposite. We played very well and the result is a bit negative, but it is not what we deserved."

Navas had to be at his best to deny Messi registering his first league goal since September on the hour mark after he had been played in by a neat one-two with Fabregas, before Juanfran blocked Xavi's follow-up effort on the line.

Juanfran again put his body on the line to turn another goal-bound effort from Messi behind moments later.

However, Levante maintained a threat on the counter-attack and Valdes had to get down to hold Ivanschitz's header from Ruben Garcia's cross.

Ivanschitz forced Valdes into another flying save 15 minutes from time as Barca left themselves exposed by pouring forward in search of a winner.

However, they came desperately close to that winner five minutes from time when Tello's curling effort was brilliantly turned behind by Navas.

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ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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