MADRID: Real Madrid gave hope to their title rivals on Sunday (Jan 24) by drawing 2-2 at home to Elche as Karim Benzema missed a penalty and then went off injured at the Santiago Bernabeu.
It could have been even worse for Madrid, who were two down with 11 minutes left yet managed to rescue a point thanks to a Luka Modric penalty and a 92nd-minute header from Eder Militao.
Lucas Boye and Pere Milla had put Elche in sight of a shock victory.
But two dropped points against a team fighting for survival this season will have come as a welcome bonus for Sevilla, who would have expected to be punished for their own draw at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Benzema’s injury is perhaps the biggest concern. The Frenchman was clutching his left hamstring as he walked down the tunnel in the second half. Madrid will hope it is nothing serious, with their Champions League first leg against Paris Saint-Germain just over three weeks away.
It completed a miserable afternoon for Benzema, who had missed his first penalty as a Real Madrid player after scoring all of his previous 16.
Sevilla also came from two down to claim a 2-2 draw on Saturday before Atletico Madrid went one better, recovering from a two-goal deficit to beat Valencia 3-2 on a weekend of comebacks.
It means the gap between Sevilla in second and Real Madrid is back to four points and both sides perhaps end the weekend with a sense of an opportunity missed.
Eden Hazard was given his own opportunity after Carlo Ancelotti handed him a rare start and while the Belgian was certainly one of Madrid’s more creative players, he went off in the 79th minute, just before his team’s revival began.
Before kick-off, all of Madrid’s players came out wearing number 11 shirts in tribute to Paco Gento, who died aged 88 on Tuesday. On display were Gento’s 12 league trophies and six European Cups.
Real Madrid did just enough to create a handful of chances in the first half but overall they were lethargic, their passing sloppy and the sharpness of recent performances lacking.
Still, it looked like it would be enough when Vinicius Junior was hacked down by Helibelton Palacios in the 33rd minute and the referee pointed to the spot. The usually dependable Benzema, though, blazed over.
The miss galvanised Elche, who had defended resolutely and then gave themselves something to defend.
Yohan Mojica sent a ball down the left for Fidel to run onto, and he crossed into the area where Boye was free to nod in.
Madrid had a whole half to make amends but found it hard to click into gear and were not helped by Benzema departing. Hazard thought he had a penalty after going down under Diego Gonzalez’s challenge but the replay showed contact was light and the decision was reversed.
The chances grew increasingly strained, with shots rushed or from distance.
Elche were not unduly troubled and in the 76th minute they made it two, with the excellent Boye twisting away from David Alaba and shifting right to Milla, who drove into the far corner.
Madrid looked out on their feet but in the 82st minute they were handed a lifeline, as Alaba’s flicked header caught Milla on the hand and, in Benzema’s absence, Modric slotted in the penalty.
They had eight minutes to find an equaliser. Vinicius raced clear but Rodrygo shot wide and then in the 92nd minute, it came, as Vinicius retrieved an overhit pass off the line and crossed for Militao, who headed in.
With two minutes left, Madrid wanted a winner. Their frustration was palpable at the final whistle.