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LaLiga Santander

Distracted Real Madrid squeak past Levante with two penalties

Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both netted from the spot as Real Madrid edged out Levante at the Ciutat de València on Sunday night.

Update:
Distracted Real Madrid squeak past Levante with two penalties
JAVIER GANDULDIARIO AS

Levante vs Real Madrid: match report

They came with thoughts of a double-header against their biggest rivals in mind. Their play suggested those thoughts were too close to the front of their mind. The result, somehow, went their way. Real Madrid were handed two penalties - converted by Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale - and that was enough to see them leave the Ciutat de València with all three points.

Benzema opens the scoring from the spot.
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Benzema opens the scoring from the spot.JAVIER GANDULDIARIO AS

Levante took the game to their more illustrious hosts from the start and across the game created the better scoring chances, with Bardhi, Morales and Roger all looking to cause problems for the white defence that was without the suspended Sergio Ramos. They hit the post twice when they should have scored, and had a number of other gilt-edged opportunities. When VAR awarded their sloppy opponents a penalty for handball just before half-time, the frustration that their efforts may not be rewarded was clear.

A neat finish from Roger on the hour mark gave the home fans something to cheer, and they'd have probably accepted four points out of six in their two league games against the European Champions, but it wasn't to be. If the first spot kick was fair, the second was much more contentious. The referee gave it instinctively as Casemiro seemed to be booted into the air as part of a hurried clearance following a corner. Replays suggested that VAR would correct the decision, with minimal, or no contact being made with the Brazilain. It didn't, and Bale rolled the ball home. A late Nacho second yellow didn't change anything.

Giving the eyes | Gareth Bale slots home the second.
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Giving the eyes | Gareth Bale slots home the second.HEINO KALISREUTERS

This was an escape for Solari, and some fans may excuse him and his players having other things on their mind. This will not be the case on Wednesday and Saturday, where two positive outcomes, and a much-improved performance will be demanded at the Bernabéu. When there's a Clásico at stake, nothing else can detract from your focus.

Levante vs Real Madrid: how it happened

Levante vs Real Madrid: preview

At this time of the season it is natural for clubs to be looking towards the upcoming games, with managers having to utilise their resources as best they can. Santiago Solari, for one, will know that this trip to Valencia, no matter how important to maintain their place near the top of the table, is down the pecking order in terms of challenge. Likewise, this is one of those games that can be seen as a free hit for Paco López, with games against those in and around them in the league more determinant of their final standings. He'll also know what Girona did.

Levante

The man Madrid will be most worried about is Morales, a footballer who is worth the admission fee to see. He started at Madrid, after a childhood in football sala, and then went on a journey that took him to Levante. "He asks for the ball, he dribbles, he is fast, and he is not selfish" it was said when he was first spotted. With loanee striker Borja Mayoral out due to Madrid being his parent club, much of the attention will fall to the 31 year old, to lead and impact on the game. Last week's 1-4 victory in Vigo did much to help the confidence of a side that has an outside chance of playing in a continental competition next year. A win tonight would truly make them believe.

Real Madrid

This is the game that comes between a Champions League last 16 first leg and a Clásico double-header. How Solari approaches it we'll have to wait and see but with some names definitely not in contention, it is likely that Barcelona will face some fresh legs on Wednesday night in the Copa. Sergio Ramos is suspended, after his sending off last weekend, while the out-of-favour Isco has been left behind, as has Álvaro Odriozola for 'tactical reasons'. Luka Modric returned to the squad after his own suspension and is likely to get at least an hour of action, but questions remain on both Casemiro and Nacho, who are a booking away from missing the Liga Clásico next Saturday. A win for Los Blancos with a few first team players getting a rest would get them back on track after the Girona surprise, and be the perfect preparation for the two home games ahead.

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