The Moroccan midfielder held off Sergio Ramos to unleash a stunning strike past Diego Lopez, sending the home fans into ecstasy.
Yet moments later, it was the away contingent exploding with joy. After Alvaro Morata's fine equalizer, Cristiano Ronaldo slammed home the game-winning goal in stoppage time, grabbing all three points on a day when it looked as if they would get none.
But without his strike, the deflection, the victory—where would Madrid stand?
Does this gritty win eliminate the fact that the club were five minutes from defeat? Just seconds from a draw?
With 69 percent possession and 27 shots on the night, Real Madrid dominated statistically. They were the better side. They have more talent. More options.
Despite their obvious advantages, the club have had a dismal time winning comfortably against lesser opponents. Against Elche a few weeks ago, it took another stoppage-time strike to steal the victory.
Leaving it late, especially on the road, is a recipe for disaster.
Already five points adrift, that number would be seven had Ronaldo's shot not fortuitously found the back of the net. There would have been panic.
Carlo Ancelotti's tactics would have been questioned. The conspicuous absence of Mesut Ozil would have been highlighted yet again.
Booed by his home fans last week, Karim Benzema failed to convince. With Morata making the case for the starting job, pressure must surely be mounting on Ancelotti. Can Ramos and Raphael Varane sort out the defensive lapses? Are Sami Khedira and Luka Modric the right pairing to protect the back four?
All of these questions have been pushed aside for the moment, swept under the rug as Madridistas admire the stunning turn of events and Ronaldo's heroics.
The real issues cannot be ignored much longer. Barcelona have a goal difference of 22. Atletico's is 15.
Madrid's is eight.
It is no secret that they haven't been up to par, but solutions are far from explicit. While they certainly miss both Xabi Alonso and Gareth Bale, the side have enough talent to make up for these absences.
It is merely the beginning of the journey, but Madrid have been bailed out twice in La Liga thus far.
There are larger problems that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
With a looming away trip to Camp Nou in three weeks, Madrid must sort out their frustrations before another Levante match ends their title hopes.
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