After beating Valencia 4-1 at the Mestalla last weekend, Real Madrid were unable to overcome to the city’s other top flight side in Saturday night’s 2-2 draw with Levante.
Zinedine Zidane made one change to the lineup that crushed Valencia one week prior, as captain Sergio Ramos returned to the heart of the defence alongside Raphael Varane at the expense of Nacho.
Kepa’s signature on the dotted line of a new deal at Athletic Club, despite Florentino Perez’s best efforts, meant Keylor Navas continued in goal against his former club.
Levante had not won in La Liga at the Estadi Ciutat de València since September, but stole a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu in the reverse fixture this season, giving them some reason to hope.
Deadline day signing, 33-year-old Giampaolo Pazzini was slung in among the subs by manager Juan Muniz for the hosts, while Coke was the only of Levante’s seven January additions to make the starting lineup.
After an opening ten minutes in which the visitors dominated, Marcelo’s skewed drive following a neat interchange with Karim Benzema earned a corner and the returning Ramos rose above the defence to open the scoring with a characteristic header.
While the power from Ramos’ connection wasn’t unstoppable, Benzema’s movement in front of former Barcelona man Oier Olazabal caused enough of a distraction to allow the ball to wriggle into the far corner.
The visitors continued to probe prior to the half-time whistle, and Cristiano Ronaldo came closest to doubling Los Blancos’ advantage as he pounced on Oier’s spill after Toni Kroos bent an effort from outside the 18-yard box.
The Granotas responded gamely to the early goal without ever really threatening their former keeper’s net, until three minutes before the break when Jose Morales found himself in behind Ramos from Sasa Lukic’s raking through ball.
Navas did well to block the initial effort but 21-year-old Emmanuel Boateng made no mistake with the rebound, stroking home into the far corner past the lunge of Varane for the equaliser and his first league goal of the season.
Ex-Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Inter and Milan etc veteran striker Pazzini on for his Levante debut. 15 mins left, Madrid still being held 1-1.
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 3, 2018
Ramos might’ve doubled his tally from the resulting corner with another header but Oier made up for his earlier indecision on the opener to produce a sharp reflex save.
With just ten minutes left on the clock, substitute Isco seemed to break Levante hearts by slamming home after taking a touch from Benzema’s cut back inside the box.
The France international was lucky to get on the end of Dani Carvajal’s deflected cross, but he took full advantage in laying off for the waiting Isco to restore Real’s advantage.
Visiting fans expecting a casual stroll to the finish line for Zidane’s side were sorely mistaken. Roger Marti should’ve equalised from the excellent Morales’ cross, but nodded just wide from centimetres out.
However, debut-making Pazzini – who promised he was not in Valencia as a tourist upon his arrival two days prior – made no mistake with his finish when he was put through on goal.