Real Madrid frustrated by Elche to leave Atleti clear at top

Real Madrid's five-match win streak in the La Liga was snapped on Wednesday as it was held to a 1-1 draw by Elche.

Karim Benzema

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema reacts during game against Elche on Wednesday.   -  AP

Real Madrid was held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at struggling Elche on Wednesday, losing ground in the La Liga title race to leader Atletico Madrid.

A header from Luka Modric gave the defending champion the lead in the 20th minute but Elche found a way back into the game when Fidel Chaves levelled from the penalty spot early in the second half.

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Both sides had chances to take all three points, with Elche forward Lucas Boye striking the post, while Real defenders Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos were thwarted by fine saves from the home side's keeper Edgar Badia.

Elche had a last-gasp chance to win the game when it earned a free kick in added time, but defender Gonzalo Verdu's shot was tipped away by Real keeper Thibaut Courtois.

The draw halted a six-match winning streak in all competitions for Real and left it second in the standings on 33 points, two behind city rival Atletico which also has two games in hand. Elche is 15th on 16 points.

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"We started well but our opponents had studied us well, they put everyone behind the ball and tried to hit us on the break and it's not a huge surprise we couldn't win," said Real midfielder Casemiro.

Real had pulled itself back into the title race with a run of five league wins in a row before the Christmas break and looked likely to notch another after an excellent first half.

Toni Kroos missed the target with a free header and Marcelo clanged the crossbar shortly before Modric put his side in front, following up a thumping strike from Marco Asensio which also hit the bar.

Zidane's side had a penalty incorrectly awarded for a block by an Elche player which the referee thought had struck his arm, but the official corrected the decision after reviewing it on the pitch-side monitor.

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Elche only troubled Courtois once in the first half but earned a golden chance to level when Carvajal was penalised for grappling with Antonio Barragan. Courtois guessed the right way but Fidel's penalty had too much power.

The home side had its impressive 'keeper Badia to thank for keeping it that way as he denied Ramos from point-blank range, moments after flying across his goal to push away a shot from Carvajal.

Real's record signing Eden Hazard returned after over a month out injured but could not help his side get the winner the side needed.

- Real should have killed off Elche, says frustrated Zidane -

Zinedine Zidane was annoyed his side could not seal victory against Elche on Wednesday.

"The sensations are not good because we had chances and could not kill the game," Zidane told reporters.

"Once they scored they closed up at the back and it was very difficult for us."

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Zidane dismissed suggestions his side had been complacent against Elche, which is back in the top flight for the first time since 2015.

 

"I don't think we suffered from over confidence, because we know exactly what was at stake. The key was finding the second goal but we weren't able to. It was much harder after they equalised although we still created chances," he said.

"We've dropped two points today but we have to keep going and think about our next game."

Next up for Real is a home game against in-form Celta Vigo, which has won six of its last seven matches and is unbeaten since November 21.

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