MADRID ( Associated Press) – Real Madrid needed a stoppage-time goal by Eder Militao to salvage a 2-2 home draw against Elche and maintain their advantage over Sevilla at the top of the Spanish league on Sunday.
Madrid struggled on a disappointing afternoon for their top player of the season, Karim Benzema, who missed a penalty kick in the first half and had to be replaced in the second due to injury.
The draw put Madrid four points ahead of second-placed Sevilla, who had to rally down two goals to avoid a loss against Celta Vigo and earn a 2-2 draw at home on Saturday.
Madrid have won once in their last three league matches, while Sevilla have played two consecutive draws. Third-placed Real Betis moved closer to victory in Espanyol on Saturday. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are 10 points away from the lead after 22 matches.
Benzema’s struggle began when he missed his chance in the first half with only the goalkeeper inside the field. Moments later, Benzema, Madrid’s top scorer this season, had a chance to give his team the lead from the penalty spot, but the France striker sent his shot way over the crossbar.
To end an unusually disappointing day, Benzema had to leave the match in the 58th with a muscle injury. Moving towards the locker room, he grabbed the back of his left leg.
Lucas Boe and Pere Mila scored a goal each to give Elche a 2–0 lead, but Madrid pulled closer in the 82nd with a penalty kick from Luka Modric and a firm header from Militao on the cross by Vinicius Jr. With that the match was leveled.
“It’s hard to take,” said Mila. “We had Madrid against the ropes but couldn’t take advantage of it.”
Vinicius, who missed a few good chances, picked up a yellow card that would see him suspended from the next match.
Madrid advanced to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey after beating Elche 2-1 in extra time on Thursday. Coach Carlo Ancelotti did not use Benzema, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and defender Militao in that match. Eden Hazard, who scored the winner in extra time on Thursday, returned to the starting lineup on Sunday after missing several minutes due to a series of injuries.
Elche advanced five points from the relegation zone with a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. It won two straight games in the league.
Hazard thought he had earned a penalty kick early in the second half but the call was reversed after a video review.
Midtable Osasuna ended their 10-match winless streak in the league with a 2–0 win in Grenada.
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