Real Madrid slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at Levante thanks to Jose Luis Morales’ stunning late winner, as Los Blancos produced a toothless display and lost Eden Hazard to injury ahead of a pivotal week.
Zinedine Zidane’s men created the better chances in Valencia but were wasteful in front of goal, and Morales’ glorious strike means Madrid head into next weekend’s Clasico trailing leaders Barcelona – who thrashed Eibar 5-0 earlier on Saturday – by two points and possibly without the injured Hazard.
Karim Benzema was particularly culpable in the first 45 minutes, spurning a glorious opportunity early on, while Hazard – who was withdraw with what appeared to be a calf issue in the second period – also squandered a presentable chance after half-time.
Levante became a more prominent threat going forward following the interval and ultimately sealed an unlikely win through Morales’ fierce effort 11 minutes from time, with Madrid heading into the first leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter against Manchester City on the back of a woeful result.
Madrid rarely looked worried at the back in the first half, though going forward they lacked a killer instinct.
That was clearest in the 11th minute when Benzema should have put them in front, but he shot straight at Aitor Fernandez with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Fernandez was alert again just before half-time, this time parrying Luka Modric’s stinging drive.
It was the same story after the break.
The previously ineffective Hazard had the opportunity to make a decisive impact in the 53rd minute when released through on goal, but he could not get the bouncing ball fully under control and his eventual effort was scuffed harmlessly at the approaching Fernandez.
Hazard had to be withdrawn in the 67th minute due to an apparent calf strain seemingly suffered while attempting a backheel, and Levante netted soon after.
Morales chased a long ball down the left flank on the break and caught it sweetly as it bounced up, beating Thibaut Courtois at his near post with the venomous strike as Madrid dropped points for a second successive LaLiga game after last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.
What does it mean? Madrid show little to frighten City or Barca
Barca crushed Eibar with an inspired Lionel Messi getting four goals, a real sign of intent after a pretty horrific week for the club off the pitch in many respects.
And having seen this performance from Madrid, La Blaugrana will not be quaking in their boots at the prospect of going to the Bernabeu, nor will City. With one win from four matches in all competitions, Los Blancos have hit a rough spell at a potentially critical stage.
None shall pass!
Levante defended as if their lives depended on it, and the key to successfully keeping Madrid out was Fernandez and the two center-backs in front of him.
While the goalkeeper made seven saves, Bruno Gonzalez and Sergio Postigo made 20 clearances between them, the former also making three successful tackles, a figure bettered by only Nikola Vukcevic (five).
Hazard fails to impress before a withdrawal
Early on there were signs of promise from Hazard, with a couple of driving runs committing defenders.
But he faded and then wasted that wonderful opportunity before seeming to injure himself. He left the pitch without having produced a single key pass.
Madrid now heads into a massive week for their season. After hosting City in the Champions League on Wednesday, they then welcome Barca to the Santiago Bernabeu for El Clasico. Levante goes to Eibar next.