Real Madrid’s winning streak ended when they conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at home to Celta Vigo and finish the weekend with their lead over Barcelona down to one point.
Real manager Zinedine Zidane was philosophical.
‘There’s nothing to explain, it’s just the way things are, it’s football,’ he said. ‘I’m not worried about it, but I’m disappointed, as always when you drop two points at home.’
Barcelona beat third place Getafe on Saturday to open a 10-point gap on the chasing pack. Sevilla could have climbed to third on Sunday but were held, 2-2, at home by rock-bottom Espanyol.
Real had won five straight in La Liga to accelerate past Barcelona. On Sunday they welcomed back Eden Hazard, who had been out since November. Coach Zinedine Zidane also recalled his other 100 million euro player Gareth Bale to complete an all-star attack with Karim Benzema.
Yet Celta leapt into the lead after seven minutes. A pass from Iago Aspas sent Fedor Smolov galloping clear up the middle and he shot low past Thibaut Courtois.
‘There were mistakes, especially for the first goal,’ said Zidane. ‘We were not well positioned, it happens, and it’ll happen to us again.’
Celta had only climbed out of the relegation places the weekend before and looked anxious and overawed on the ball.
Real dominated the rest of the first half and their starry attacking lineup produced pacy, intricate and imaginative attacking interchanges but a combination of good defending and bad finishing kept Real out for the rest of the first half.
Real again dominated the start of the first half.
Sergio Ramos, already playing as an extra striker, slammed the ball into the net but had been standing offside.
In the 52nd minute, Marcelo, not for the first time, found space on the left. His low cross deflected to Toni Kroos following the attack. The German drilled in the equaliser. It was the sixth straight season Kroos had scored against Celta.
In the 65th minute, goalkeeper Ruben Blanco pulled down the impressive Hazard. Ramos slammed the penalty into the bottom corner of the net.
‘We’re glad he’s back,’ said Zidane who took the Belgian off in the 73rd minute.
‘We know what he can do for us. He didn’t go further than we planned after three months out,’ Zidane said. ‘He was involved in a lot of attacking action.’
Celta responded by rediscovering their attacking nerve.
With four minutes left, a sharp pass from Denis Suarez, who had come on in the 71st minute, caught the Real back four rigid on the edge of their own area. Santi Mina, who had been on for just two minutes, raced onto the ball and drilled a shot past Courtois.
‘An extraordinary pass,’ said Zidane.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Football