Madrid - Real
Madrid failed to ease the pressure on coach Julen Lopetegui and instead
set the record for the longest goal-drought in the club's history
during a surprise 2-1 defeat by Levante on Saturday.
Madrid have now gone five games without a victory and when Marcelo
gave them hope of a comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu, they had gone 481
minutes of normal time without a goal too.
The club's previous worst run had been 464 minutes, in 1985.
For a team that prides itself on flair and flamboyance, it is a
streak that reflects just as badly on Lopetegui as the results, which
could leave Real Madrid four points adrift of Barcelona later on
Saturday, with a 'Clasico' to come next weekend at the Camp Nou.
Atletico Madrid are two points ahead after they missed the chance to go top by drawing 1-1 away to Villarreal.
Asked about his future, Lopetegui said: "It is the last thing I am
thinking about. I am thinking only about lifting the players."
Marcelo said: "We are with the coach until the death."
If Barca's players were watching, they would have been licking their
lips at the sight of Raphael Varane handing Levante a two-goal lead
after just 13 minutes. Jose Luis Morales and Roger Marti, from the
penalty spot, were the beneficiaries.
At the final whistle, Lopetegui stood on the touchline, with his hands on his hips, staring ahead in disbelief.
He had left Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema on the bench, perhaps due
to fitness issues, and the gamble backfired, despite both making a
difference when brought on in the second half.
Lopetegui had cited a lack of luck in recent weeks and Madrid were not blessed with it.
They hit the crossbar twice and the post once. They suffered a
two-goal swing as a result of the Video Assistant Referee, one against
called as a penalty, and one ruled out for offside.
"I'm sure football will eventually give back to us what it is taking away," Lopetegui said.
But a single goal, from their 30-year-old left-back, in over eight
hours is no fluke, and neither are the defensive lapses that could have
seen Levante add more to their early double.
Paco Lopez took charge of Levante in March and oversaw eight wins
from 11 to avoid relegation. This season they are now seventh, a point
"I told the guys talent has its limits, but faith and conviction do
not," Lopez said. "This team believes in what they are doing."
Levante were two up in 13 minutes
and both came from Varane mistakes. The first was more blatant as he
misjudged the flight of Sergio Postigo's through ball, allowing Morales
to nick it round Thibaut Courtois and fire into the open net.
It got worse, as Varane handled and VAR advised the error had been inside the box. Roger converted the penalty.
For the rest of the half, Madrid were scatty and imprecise, their finishing spoiled by bad luck but a lack of composure too.
VAR proved their undoing again, ruling Marco Asensio's follow-up
offside after Casemiro headed against the crossbar. Mariano was also
denied by the woodwork.
At half-time, there were a scattering of white handkerchiefs - the
traditional expression of discontent - but more whistles. After the
restart, the home fans sang "echale huevos", meaning, "play with some
Benzema shot straight at Oier Olazabal, who then pushed a bending
Bale free-kick wide. Finally, Madrid scored, with that pair involved
again as Bale flicked on to Benzema and Marcelo drove home.
Madrid believed as Benzema struck the far post with a curling effort
and Mariano thought he had grabbed an equaliser in the 87th minute. The
striker, however, had strayed just offside.
For Madrid, it was not to be while city rivals Atletico slipped up too, held by Villarreal.
Filipe Luis headed Atleti into the lead but Mario Gaspar equalised
for the hosts, who might even have won it were it not for a string of
excellent saves from Jan Oblak.