Real Madrid's La Liga title challenge is in tatters after another costly draw, 1-1 at Real Valladolid on Wednesday evening.
Sergio Ramos put Madrid ahead in the 35th minute, the defender extending his impressive run of scoring with a fine free-kick 10 minutes before half-time.
Valladolid equalised via Osorio in the 85th minute, securing a valuable draw for the hosts and all but ending Madrid's bid for the league title.
The result left Madrid on 84 points, four behind leaders Atletico Madrid and one behind second-placed Barcelona with two matches left. In order to win the title, Madrid will need both Barca and Atletico to drop points while winning both of theirs—something that has recently proven difficult for Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Meanwhile, the draw lifted Valladolid into 16th place and out of the relegation zone on goal differential.
Following Sunday's 2-2 draw at home to Valencia, Madrid knew that victory on Wednesday was crucial to their chances. Now, however, it appears the match between Atletico and Barcelona on the final day of the season will prove decisive.
Atletico can claim the title merely by drawing with Malaga and Barcelona in their final two matches. Meanwhile, as ESPN's Dermot Corrigan pointed out, Barcelona's title challenge is now back on—only days after it was supposedly finished.
Chasing a result that would boost their title challenge, Real Madrid received bad news in the ninth minute after Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to re-aggravate the hamstring injury that has kept him out of action in recent months. He was replaced by Alvaro Morata in a move that was "precautionary," per B/R's Jerrad Peters.
With Ronaldo subbed out and Gareth Bale already missing, the visitors had to search for another source of goals. They found it in Ramos, their veteran centre-back who in recent weeks could be mistaken for a centre-forward.
Standing over a free-kick in the 35th minute, Ramos curled a dipping shot over the wall and into the net for the crucial opening goal. It was the defender's fifth goal in his last four appearances in all competitions, as reported by @WhoScored, and it came the day after Ramos marked the birth of his first son, per Yahoo! News.
Ramos came close to a second in the 45th minute, meeting a corner with a towering header in the middle of the box. But with Valladolid goalkeeper Jaime beaten, the ball sailed just wide of the far post.
After the break, Karim Benzema had a chance to double Madrid's lead after latching on to Nacho's cross to the back post in the 55th minute. Instead, the French striker misplaced his first-time volley, skying his effort well over the bar.
Valladolid grew in stature as the second half wore on and came within inches of an equaliser in the 66th minute. Taking possession on the right, Jeffren cut inside before crossing for Guerra, who missed narrowly with an acrobatic overhead kick.
Madrid had another chance in the 68th minute after Isco freed Morata with a through ball on the left side. Morata shot low on target from the edge of the box, but Jaime saved easily.
The visitors were made to pay for their wastefulness with five minutes left as Valladolid pulled level. Javier Baraja played in a corner and Osorio finished past Iker Casillas to make it 1-1 with only minutes remaining.
Even so, Madrid had a chance to win it in the 90th minute. Xabi Alonso lofted a free-kick toward the back post, where Pepe headed the ball on for Ramos, but the defender hooked his shot off target. With that, Madrid's last big opportunity passed—and with it, almost certainly their chance of winning the title.
|Real Madrid Player Ratings|
|Angel Di Maria||7||6|
|Alvaro Morata (for Ronaldo, 8')||6||6|
|Asier Illarramendi (for Isco, 73')||N/A||5|
|Marcelo (for Benzema, 77')||N/A||6|
Ramos said Madrid will "keep fighting" for the title despite Wednesday's result. Speaking to reporters after the match, as per Football Espana, Ramos said:
It’s a pity because we’ve fought, but we relaxed a bit in the minuets at 1-0. Against team fighting against relegation you can’t do that. I can’t fault our attitude today though. As long as it’s mathematically possible Real Madrid will keep fighting.
Osorio praised Valladolid's performance and, following an earlier win against Barcelona, noted his side's ability to get results against big teams. Speaking to Gol TV, as quoted by Inside Spanish Football, he said:
This was a really important game for us. This point takes us out of the relegation zone and now we have to keep fighting. Thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to play and allowing me to score the goal.
We’ve played really well against great teams. It’s important that we’ve been really enthusiastic and the team made a huge effort, never gave up fighting for the club and for the games.
I always have faith that I can score and get opportunities, so I’m really happy with this one.
Real Madrid play at Celta Vigo on Sunday and finish the season at home to Espanyol on May 18.
Real Valladolid play at Real Betis on Sunday and host Granada on the final day of the season.
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