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Real Madrid vs. AC Milan in Dubai

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

La Liga: Real rocked by lowly Levante

MADRID, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Real Madrid's scoring problems returned to haunt them as they lost 1-0 at home to struggling Levante in the Primera Liga on Sunday.

Leaders Barcelona and second-placed Sevilla failed to take full advantage, though, as they only managed goalless draws.

Barca were held at Osasuna in a tight match significant for the return from injury after four months out of Samuel Eto'o.

The Cameroon striker came on for the last five minutes, but failed to cap a dream return with a goal.

Barca stay top with 43 points, one ahead of Sevilla who were unable to find a way past lowly Real Sociedad.

Valencia are third with 39 points after beating Atletico Madrid 3-1 on Saturday with two goals from Fernando Morientes.

Atletico are fifth on 36 points with Real Zaragoza a point back in sixth after Sergio Garcia's double sank Espanyol 2-1.

Having sold Ronaldo to AC Milan during the week all eyes were on how Real Madrid would respond but they never recovered after Salva Ballesta's 11th-minute penalty for Levante.

Real have scored just three times in their last eight games in all competitions, and remain fourth with 38 points.

'The whistles from the crowd are fair. These things always happen when things don't go well, but I'm still convinced we'll win something this year,' said Real coach Fabio Capello.

EARLY PENALTY

Real lined up with Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy and Argentine Gonzalo Higuain up front whilst deploying Raul and Jose Antonio Reyes on the flanks.

There was again no place in the squad for David Beckham and when asked about him after the match Capello said: 'He has been here three years and results haven't been good. We are trying a new line up and waiting for important players to return.'

The game had barely got going when Real's Mahamadou Diarra brought down Damiano Tommasi in the area for a penalty, which new signing Salva squeezed past Iker Casillas.

Real dominated from then on but struggled to create clear chances, lacking pace and a cutting edge.

Van Nistelrooy had a penalty shout turned away in the second half and substitute Miguel Angel Nieto hit the bar but that did not assuage irate Real fans who by the end were chanting for club president Ramon Calderon and Capello to resign.

Real have now lost four of their last six league games. For Levante it was their second win in 12, although the three points failed to drag them out of the relegation places.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Recreativo Huelva overcame visiting Villarreal 2-1 with goals from Juanma and Florent Sinama Pongolle, to go seventh on 33 points.