Eder Militao was sent off after just nine minutes for a clumsy foul as Real Madrid went down 2-1 at home to Levante.
Real Madrid paid the price for Eder Militao’s early red card as Roger Marti recovered from a penalty miss to clinch a 2-1 away win for Levante in LaLiga.
Defending champions Madrid played with 10 men for 81 minutes and could not hold out, as Roger settled Saturday’s match after Jose Luis Morales cancelled out Marco Asensio’s opener.
Asensio’s goal came against the run of play following Militao’s mishap, but Madrid still seemed set to claim a point when Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved Roger’s second-half spot-kick.
The inspired goalkeeper was belatedly beaten for a second time, though, as Los Blancos failed to close the seven-point gap to Atletico Madrid, who now have two games in hand and face Cadiz on Sunday.
Turning the game on its head just nine minutes in, Militao was dismissed after referee David Medie visited the pitchside monitory having only initially booked the centre-back for tangling with Sergio Leon as the last man.
The next big call went Madrid’s way, however, as Medie ignored Gonzalo Melero’s appeal for a foul in the home penalty area and Toni Kroos’ outstanding pass sent Asensio clear to calmly finish on the counter.
The leveller seemed inevitable and Courtois could not reach a beautiful first-time effort from Morales, although the goalkeeper denied Roger either side of that strike.
Half-time slowed Levante’s momentum, but further controversy was not far away and Courtois came to the fore again when a VAR review ruled Vinicius Junior’s foul on Carlos Clerc was on the line of the penalty area, saving superbly from Roger’s subsequent spot-kick.
It was still Roger who had the final say 12 minutes from time as he fired beyond Courtois when Madrid were caught cold from a corner, their defending decisively poor once more.
What does it mean? Advantage Atletico
Atleti were already seven points clear with a game in hand and enjoying a seven-match winning run in the league, so rivals Madrid could ill afford a setback.
A draw might still have been considered a respectable result in the circumstances, but Madrid could not cling on and have now won just one of their past four home games against Levante.
Courtois limits the damage
It ultimately counted for little, but even before the penalty save, his second for the club, Courtois excelled to keep Madrid in the game.
The goalkeeper produced six stops in total – he has never had to make more in a single match for Madrid. Unfortunately, Roger was handed a second chance and took it.
Blancos hapless at the back
Courtois’ team-mates were to blame for his busy afternoon, the back line collectively turning in a dismal display as captain Sergio Ramos – still struggling with a knee injury – angrily protested various refereeing calls from the stands.
Madrid were caught out by a routine ball over the top for Militao’s red card, toed the line when Ferland Mendy made contact with Melero before Asensio’s goal and had to rely on Courtois as Vinicius was punished with the penalty.
The hosts committed just nine fouls to Levante’s 20, but they were vital errors.
Key Opta Facts
- At eight minutes and 12 seconds, Militao received the quickest red card for an outfield Madrid outfield player in LaLiga since at least the 2003-04 season.
– Levante’s boss Paco Lopez has become to the third coach to win two or more LaLiga games against Zinedine Zidane (W2 L2) after Pablo Machin and Quique Setien (two each).
– Asensio has been involved in four goals in his past three home LaLiga games (two goals and two assists), only one fewer than in his previous 18 home appearances in the competition (two goals and three assists).
– Kroos has assisted at least one goal in two LaLiga appearances in a row for the first time since December 2016.
Madrid will seek a response at Huesca next Saturday, while Levante are still in the Copa del Rey and host Villarreal in the last eight on Wednesday.