BARCELONA (Reuters) - La Liga champions Real Madrid dropped points at home for the second game running when they drew 1-1 with Levante on Saturday, with Gareth Bale squandering a series of chances and Marcelo sent off late on.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw away to Valencia as they missed the presence of suspended striker Antoine Griezmann against Marcelino’s gritty side.
Barcelona will be looking to take advantage of Real’s slip-up when they host local rivals Espanyol later on Saturday.
Ivan “Ivi” Lopez gave Levante, who won promotion back to the top flight last season, a shock lead in the 12th minute, flicking the ball into the air over Dani Carvajal as he tried to control a long throw-in and volleying into the near corner.
The Spanish forward came close to doubling the lead from a free kick which whistled past the near post but Real pulled themselves level in the 36th minute when Lucas Vazquez tapped in from close range after Levante goalkeeper Raul Fernandez could only parry a header from Sergio Ramos.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have taken five points from their first three league games. Saturday’s result followed a 2-2 draw at home to Valencia before the international break, making it the first time in 12 months that they had drawn two consecutive league games.
“This is something we didn’t want to happen. We have to learn from our errors and move on,” said Real goalscorer Vazquez.
“We lacked a bit of freshness to create chances. Levante closed up very well at the back and caused us problems.”
The champions were still without talisman Cristiano Ronaldo through suspension and Zidane heavily rotated his side following the international break, leaving the in-form Isco, goalkeeper Keylor Navas and Luka Modric out of the starting line-up.
Zidane was forced to bring on Bale in the first half when Karim Benzema went off injured, giving the recently maligned Wales forward a chance to prove his critics wrong, but he spurned two great chances at the end of each half.
Fernandez denied Bale on the stroke of half-time after the former Tottenham forward had raced through on goal unchallenged, and he also kept out another effort by Bale, as well as strikes from Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio.
The goalkeeper’s best save came from a low-struck effort from Marcelo, who in frustration rolled to the floor, kicking Levante’s Jefferson Lerma in the process and earning a straight red card in the 89th minute.
Bale had headed wide of goal moments earlier with his clearest opportunity of the game, and Real had one final chance to snatch a win when Kroos went for goal from the edge of the area but saw his shot bounce off the outside of the far post.
Editing by Clare Fallon, Neville Dalton