Real Madrid title bid dented again after home draw with Real Betis

A second goalless draw in three league games, after last Saturday's stalemate at struggling Getafe, left Madrid second in the standings with 71 points.

Real Madrid's Marcelo (left) challenges for the ball with Betis' Aitor Ruibal (second left) during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Betis at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, April 24, 2021.   -  AP

A sloppy Real Madrid was held 0-0 at home to Real Betis on Saturday in a further blow to its hopes of retaining the La Liga title.

Still depleted by a spate of injuries and stifled by a downpour and a soaking pitch, Madrid rarely got going and had few goalscoring opportunities, while Betis kept the champion on its toes but also failed to carve out clear-cut opportunities.

Madrid came closest with a mis-hit cross from Rodrygo in the second half which hit the bar plus a distance strike from Luka Modric which was comfortably parried by Claudio Bravo.

A second goalless draw in three league games, after last Saturday's stalemate at struggling Getafe, left Madrid second in the standings with 71 points.

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Zinedine Zidane's side is two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, which can increase its lead to five points with victory at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Barcelona will move level on points with Real with a game in hand if it wins at Villarreal on Sunday while fourth-placed Sevilla can go one point behind them if it beats Granada.

One positive note for Real was the return of record signing Eden Hazard after more than a month out injured and the Belgian looked sharp in the 15 minutes he played after coming off the bench, giving him a chance of a reunion with former club Chelsea in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg.

"We're very happy to see Eden again, he's a player who is going to offer us a lot. He looked in very good shape," said Zidane, adding that he hoped left-back Ferland Mendy and midfielder Toni Kroos would also return in time to face Chelsea.

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"We didn't play well enough to get the victory and have taken a step back in the title race," said Real defender Dani Carvajal.

"We could have showed more hunger in the final third of the pitch and we've only got one point, which leaves us further away from the leaders. We couldn't get to the right crosses or anticipate where to run in the final few metres; we didn't get the small details right.

"We still want to send an optimistic message to the fans and we'll fight for the 15 points left but today was a chance to put the pressure on and we didn't take it."

Zidane, however, would not dwell on whether his side had lost momentum in what is set to be a thrilling four-way title race, with Barcelona and Sevilla also in with a chance of catching Atletico.

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"There's five games left which is still a long way to go and we're going to keep on fighting. La Liga did not end for us tonight, the other teams still have to play," he added.

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