La Liga's title race took another dramatic turn as Real Madrid drew, 2-2, at home to Valencia on Sunday evening, missing a chance to put pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid controlled 58 percent of possession and outshot Valencia, 32-8, per WhoScored.com, but fell behind twice via goals from Jeremy Mathieu and Dani Parejo. The Blancos managed to equalise twice, through Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, but could not find a dramatic winner despite coming close in stoppage time.
As a result, Real were unable to capitalise on Atletico's loss at Levante earlier Sunday and remained in third place on 83 points, two behind Barcelona and five behind Atletico Madrid. The Blancos still have one match in hand, but Sunday's draw means Carlo Ancelotti's side realistically must win all three remaining games—while getting plenty of help—in order to claim the title.
Up next for Real is a match at Valladolid on Wednesday before a trip to Celta Vigo next Sunday.
Meanwhile, Real are also still alive in the UEFA Champions League and will face Atletico in the final on May 24.
Valencia are eighth with 46 points and can no longer qualify for the UEFA Europa League next season via their league position. But as journalist Ben Hayward pointed out via Twitter, Juan Antonio Pizzi's side deserve credit for their performances against formidable opponents this season:
Real Madrid started well, Ronaldo creating a chance in the third minute after playing a one-two with Gareth Bale. The return pass allowed Ronaldo to shoot from a tight angle, but Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves saved at the bottom corner.
Bale created another chance in the seventh minute, driving to the byline on the right before pulling back to Karim Benzema, who headed off target. Valencia had a chance in the 16th minute as Sofiane Feghouli picked out Parejo with a cross from the right. Parejo powered his header on target, but Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez tipped the ball onto bar.
Ten minutes later, Benzema freed Ronaldo with a scooped pass on the right. Under pressure from Ricardo Costa, Ronaldo managed to direct his shot on target, but Alves saved smartly to keep Real off the scoresheet.
Valencia then went ahead in the 44th minute via a corner, Mathieu directing the ball into the net with the top of his shoulder despite being marked tightly by Raphael Varane. Bale had a chance to equalise within moments, but his volley flew over the bar in the 45th minute.
Real's first equaliser came in the 59th minute via Ramos, the unlikely scoring hero from the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich. Angel Di Maria swung in a cross from the left to the far post for Ronaldo, who headed back to the middle. The ball's trajectory took it slightly behind Ramos, but the defender contorted his body to head into the net and pull Real level at 1-1.
Real seemed set to go on and win the match, but instead, Valencia went ahead for a second time in the 65th minute. Feghouli set up the goal, playing a deflected cross into the middle from the right. Parejo ran onto the pass and placed his first-time shot into the bottom corner to restore Valencia's advantage at 2-1.
The hosts were in trouble as the match headed to stoppage time, but Real managed to equalise a second time in the 92nd minute. Di Maria was the catalyst, crossing from left for Ronaldo, who turned into net with an incredible back flick.
Needing another goal to maintain their title push, Real kept attacking. Ronaldo had another chance in the fourth minute of stoppage time but headed wide of the back post from Marcelo's cross. Di Maria then crossed again from the left as Real mounted a final attack, and Alvaro Morata volleyed just wide of the near post.
|Real Madrid Player Ratings|
|Angel Di Maria (for Illarramendi, 46')||N/A||8|
|Casemiro (for Isco, 72')||N/A||6|
|Alvaro Morata (for Benzema, 84')||N/A||6|
Real Madrid defender Marcelo said his side's trip to Germany last week to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League had nothing to do with Sunday's result. Speaking to Diario AS, as cited by Football Espana, he said:
It had nothing to do with wear from the Champions League. We have given everything but we couldn’t win, but at least we drew. We don’t look at the matches of other teams. Now we have to win ours anyway. Today we had to win and we couldn’t.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti said Real are not out of the title race despite the draw. As quoted by Inside Spanish Football, he said:
La Liga will be decided in the final games, I’ve always said that and that’s how it’s going to be. It’s been a difficult weekend for the top three teams and now it’s more open than ever.
…It was an opportunity. I think the teams started the game well. The first fifteen minutes we had chances, but later it was harder to play with the same intensity. Although Valencia played last Thursday, they weren’t under any pressure. They’ve played with more liberty. We have much more pressure.
Real Madrid play at Valladolid on Wednesday before visiting Celta Vigo next Sunday. Valencia play at Levante next Sunday.