BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid stumbled again in the Spanish league title race after losing 2-1 at home to Levante on Saturday with the defending champions reduced to 10 men shortly after kickoff.
The loss left second-place Madrid seven points behind leader Atlético Madrid, which has played two fewer games.
Éder Militão, starting in place of the injured Sergio Ramos, was sent off eight minutes into the match with a direct red card for fouling Sergio León with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Despite losing a player, Marco Asensio put Madrid ahead in the 13th when he was launched on a counterattack with Toni Kroos’ excellent pass.
But Levante imposed its numerical advantage the rest of the way and enjoyed all the clear scoring chances.
Levante forward José Morales equalized in the 33rd with an exquisite volley to blast a pass from Jorge Miramón inside the far post.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved Madrid from falling behind in the 64th when he stretched to parry Roger Martí’s penalty kick after substitute Vinícius Júnior fouled Charles Leclerc near the edge of the box.
Martí made up for his wasted spot kick in the 78th when he rifled in a shot following a smart move by Levante after a corner.
Assistant coach David Bettoni was in the dugout for a second straight match for Madrid as Zinedine Zidane continued his self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
“It is a difficult loss. After the sending off, the game was uphill for us,” Bettoni said.
Madrid enjoyed a strong December when it reeled off five straight wins. But Zidane’s team has dropped points in three of its last five league matches in addition to losing to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals and being dumped from the Copa del Rey by third-tier Alcoyano.