Levante 2-2 Real Madrid: Giampaolo Pazzini nets late on as Real drop more points
By Oliver Young-Myles
Last Updated: 04/02/18 12:10am
A last-minute goal from substitute Giampaolo Pazzini on his La Liga debut handed struggling Levante a well-deserved 2-2 draw against Real Madrid at Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday night.
Sergio Ramos made the perfect start upon his return from a calf injury by heading the visitors in front, although Oier in goal should have done better as the ball dribbled past him.
Despite Real dominating the first half, Levante went in level as Emmanuel Boateng grabbed an equaliser just before the break with a well-taken finish from the edge of the box.
Isco came off the bench to put Real back in front late on before Pazzini squeezed a finish beyond Keylor Navas in the 89th minute to condemn the visitors to yet another league draw.
Real missed the chance to leapfrog Valencia into third, while Levante boosted their survival chances by moving three points ahead of Deportivo in 18th.
Levante: Oier (7), Coke (7), Pier (6), Postigo (5), Luna (6), Lerma (7), Doukoure (6), Lukic (7), Boateng (7), Ivi Lopez (6), Morales (8)
Subs: Roger (5), Jason (7), Pazzini (7)
Real Madrid: Navas (7), Carvajal (6), Ramos (6), Varane (6), Marcelo (6), Casemiro (6), Kroos (6), Modric (8), Bale (5), Ronaldo (6), Benzema (7)
Subs: Isco (7), Asensio (6), Lucas (N/A)
Man of the match: Jose Luis Morales
The visitors set the tempo from the outset and went a goal in front after 12 minutes through Ramos, who rose highest to head home a Toni Kroos corner. It was not Ramos' best effort but it was still good enough to beat Oier, who seemed to be pre-occupied by Karim Benzema close by.
It looked only a matter of time before Real doubled their lead but instead, it was Levante who got the second goal of the game as Boateng calmly slid the ball into the bottom corner after the lively Jose Luis Morales had seen his shot parried by Navas.
Levante were markedly more adventurous in the second half but Zinedine Zidane managed to change the game back in his side's favour by introducing Isco for Gareth Bale and tweaking his system to a 4-4-2 diamond. Isco rewarded his manager's show of faith by restoring Real's lead on 82 minutes, thundering in a shot from close-range after being teed up by Benzema.
Zinedine Zidane named his full-strength side with captain Sergio Ramos making a timely return to action in place of Nacho in defence.Levante made eight changes with Antonio Luna, Coke, Cheick Doukoure, Rober Pier, Oier, Ivi Lopez, Sasa Lukic and Emmanuel Boateng all coming in.
That goal really should have sealed the points for Real but instead, they seemed to lose their focus. Morales picked out substitute Roger Marti at the far post with five minutes to go and inexplicably the striker somehow glanced a header wide from under the goalposts when it looked easier to score.
Fortunately for Roger that miss did not prove to be costly as Pazzini - brought in on loan from Verona in January - latched onto a wonderful through ball from another substitute Jason before curling a shot into the far corner to spark jubilant scenes in the stands and leave the Real players lamenting yet more dropped points.
Man of the match - Jose Luis Morales
Had Real managed to hold out, Luka Modric or Karim Benzema would have been in with a shout of being man of the match but it was a result that was far better for Levante and a player that encapsulated their gritty, determined display was their captain, Jose Luis Morales.
The winger relieved pressure on his side time and again with his directness on the break and his pace caused the Real backline numerous problems throughout the game. Many of their best moments came through him and he should have had an assist when Roger missed a sitter late on.
Real Madrid's next game is at home against Real Sociedad next Saturday in a game that is live on Sky Sports Football before they switch their attention to a potentially season-defining Champions League first leg against PSG, also at the Bernabeu.
Next up for Levante is a local derby against Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday and that game is also live on Sky Sports Football from 7.40pm.