Real Madrid are held to disappointing draw by lowly Real Betis
Zinedine Zidane suffered his first setback since taking charge of Real Madrid as his title-chasing side were held to a 1-1 draw in a thrilling game at struggling Real Betis.
Alvaro Cejudo's wonder strike gave Betis the lead after seven minutes but Karim Benzema tapped home to level after 71 minutes.
Madrid dominated the latter stages of the game but were denied by several outstanding saves from former Merengues goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
They stay third in the Primera Division, four points behind Barcelona and failing to capitalise on Atletico Madrid's goalless draw with Sevilla earlier on Sunday.
Betis are still without a win in eight matches, meanwhile, but pick up a second consecutive point under caretaker coach Juan Merino, leaving them 14th in the table.
Madrid were without Gareth Bale, who had scored nine goals and given three assists in his last five matches, so Zidane gave James Rodriguez a first start in four league games.
The Frenchman also recalled Danilo at right-back, surprisingly leaving Dani Carvajal on the bench, and brought in Raphael Varane for the injured Sergio Ramos.
Zidane went into his first away fixture as Madrid coach boasting the best start to life in the Merengues' dugout in the club's history thanks to the 5-0 and 5-1 wins over Deportivo La Coruna and Sporting Gijon, respectively, but was quickly brought down to earth as Betis took an early lead.
Ruben Castro went for goal from outside the area and Keylor Navas parried but the danger was not properly cleared and it bounced up towards Cejudo, who swivelled and unleashed a brilliant volley into far the top corner from the edge of the box.
Betis were able to contain Madrid for a 20-minute spell after scoring until Cristiano Ronaldo found a way into the box and aimed for the far corner with his left foot, but shot well wide of the far post. A minute later Pepe rose to meet a corner and powered a header just over the bar.
Madrid were then left fuming when their calls for a penalty were turned down. Benzema dribbled into the area and as he took on Petros, the Brazilian appeared to tread on his foot, causing the Frenchman to fall, but referee Juan Martinez Munuera was unmoved.
Madrid made a better start to the second half and soon could have drawn level. Ronaldo flicked a cross into the box towards Rodriguez, who failed to make any contact and the ball instead fell to Benzema, whose initial shot was repelled by Adan, and the striker could only blast over on the rebound.
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
Rodriguez had a chance to vindicate his earlier miss and his general dip in form over the last couple of months when the ball dropped to him on the volley, but his shot fell straight into the arms of Adan.
Carvajal replaced Danilo and had an instant impact, bursting down the right to control a cross from Marcelo, but thumped the ball wide of the near post.
Yet a Madrid equaliser did not look far away and it arrived when Toni Kroos threaded a pass to Rodriguez in the area, and as Adan came out the Colombian squared to Benzema, who touched the ball into the empty net. But Betis players were furious that Rodriguez was not ruled offside.
Madrid only grew in confidence after equalising and continued to invade Betis' half. Rodriguez let fly from outside the area, forcing Adan to dive towards the top corner to punch away. He made an even better from Benzema, sticking out a hand at the near post to keep out the Frenchman's rabona.
Madrid kept on coming at Betis, who could hardly cross the halfway line, but the winning goal they craved remained elusive, and they almost conceded in injury time when, Ruben Castro fired just over the bar on a rare breakaway for the hosts.