Real Madrid’s title defense on last legs after another loss

Sports Desk, Jan 30 (efe-epa).- Atletico Madrid can enter February 10 points clear at the top of LaLiga in the wake of yet another debacle Saturday for defending champions Real Madrid, who lost 1-2 to Levante.

The Colchoneros, with only one defeat, lead their cross-town rivals by 7 points and have two games in hand.

For the Blancos, Saturday’s defeat capped off a terrible month that saw them eliminated from the Copa del Rey and fail to reach the final of the Spanish Super Cup.

After successive home losses to Cadiz and Alaves, Real Madrid could have been expected to take the tie with ninth-place Levante more seriously. Instead, they suffered again from the inconsistency and lack of punch on the attack that have plagued them all season.

And going down to 10 men just nine minutes into the match didn’t help.

The referee initially showed Eder Militao a yellow card for clipping Levante’s Sergio Leon in the box, but the sanction was upgraded to red after a VAR review determined that the Real Madrid defender denied a goal-scoring opportunity.

Yet the hosts went up 1-0 four minutes as Marco Asensio scored on the counter. Team captain Jose Luis Morales brought Levante level in the 32nd minute.

It was still 1-1 in the 60th minute when VAR intervened again to the detriment of Real Madrid, awarding Levante a penalty instead of a free kick after sub Vinicius Jr. fouled Carlos Clerc.

Thibaut Courtois saved Roger Marti’s penalty, but the striker went on to score from open play in the 78th minute to give Levante the edge and they saw out the match.

And as they fall farther behind Atletico, the Blancos must begin to look over their shoulder at the clubs below them in the standings.

Barcelona, currently fourth, can pull level on points with Real Madrid if they win on Sunday and have a better goal difference.

While Sevilla improved to 39 points with a 0-2 win Saturday over Eibar.

The 15th-place hosts made a positive start only to concede a penalty in the 27th minute for a foul by Pedro Bigas on Youssef En-Nesyri. Lucas Ocampos converted from the spot and Joan Jordan added a second goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Villarreal and Real Sociedad, who began the day in the fifth and sixth spots, respectively, fought to a 1-1 draw. Dani Parejo put the home side ahead in the 3rd minute, but Alexander Isak equalized for Sociedad deep in stoppage time.

Valencia gave themselves a much-needed boost with a 1-0 triumph over Elche, their first at the Mestalla since Nov. 8.

Daniel Wass scored in the 22nd minute and though Elche keeper saved a Carlos Soler penalty to keep his side in the game, the visitors didn’t have enough on the attack.

Elche remain second-from-bottom with 17 points, while Valencia edge up to 13th on 23 points. EFE


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