Real Madrid crashed to a third successive defeat, putting head coach Julen Lopetegui under further scrutiny with reports Antonio Conte could replace him. Goals from Jose Luis Morales and Roger Marti inside the opening quarter of an hour left Real shell-shocked and Levante went on to seal a famous 2-1 victory in the Spanish capital.
Marcelo pulled one back – but only after Real had surpassed their previous highest benchmark of 465 minutes without scoring – but it was to no avail, with this setback ramping up the pressure on Lopetegui ahead of next week’s El Clasico at Barcelona. The former Spain coach’s future was already being talked about following losses to CSKA Moscow and Alaves before the international break, while they are now winless in five.
Their recent sticky patch had left them low on confidence and the mood around the Bernabeu only darkened when Morales took advantage of a Raphael Varane error to put the visitors ahead in the seventh minute. Varane failed to track the run of Morales, who collected Sergio Postigo’s long ball forward before rounding Thibaut Courtois and slotting into an empty net.
The Real defender was again culpable as Levante doubled their lead to the astonishment of the home crowd in the 13th minute. A handball by the World Cup winner was initially given as a free-kick on the edge of the box but referee Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez upgraded the decision to a penalty after consultation with VAR. Roger Marti made no mistake with his spot-kick, despite Courtois guessing the right way, to leave Real with a mountain to climb.
The hosts thought they had got an immediate foothold back into the clash when Marco Asensio, the last Real player to score, nodded in the rebound after Sergio Ramos’ header had had bounced off the crossbar. However, VAR once again proved their undoing, the system showing Asensio to be offside as Ramos headed the ball. Real were seeing plenty of the ball after a frantic start and continued to fashion opportunities, with Mariano planting a header against the bar while Lucas Vazquez was denied by a superb save from Levante goalkeeper Oier Olazabal.
Levante looked to have scored a third as half-time approached but Ruben Rochina’s tap-in was chalked off due to provider Tono being offside before putting in a cross. Gareth Bale was brought on for Alvaro Odriozola at the beginning of the second half while Luka Modric went close to halving the deficit but Olazabal palmed away after the Croatian had jinked his way into box and got a shot away.
The much-discussed 55th minute came and went without Real scoring, while the final roll of the dice came in the form of Karim Benzema and Dani Ceballos replacing Isco and Asensio. Benzema was involved as Real ended the goal drought at 481 minutes, the Frenchman cutting the ball back to Marcelo, who rifled into the roof of the net with his weaker right foot with a little more than a quarter of an hour remaining. Benzema saw his strike from the edge of the box come back off the post while Olazabal once again came to Levante’s rescue to deny Mariano in the closing stages.
Mariano did get the better of the shot-stopper after finding the net from close range but the linesman’s flag came to the rescue of Levante. Real through everything forward as they frantically searched for a winner but to no avail, with boos raining down at the full-time whistle.