Real Madrid lost ground in pursuit of La Liga leaders Barcelona on Sunday, when they were held to a shock 1-1 draw away at bottom-of-the-table side Almeria.
Substitute Esteban Granero's 77th minute equalizer prevented Jose Mourinho's side from defeat after Almeria had taken the lead shortly before the hour mark through Leonardo Ulloa. Madrid could have won it right at the end when Cristiano Ronaldo's powerful free-kick from the edge of the box hit the underside of the bar before bouncing out.
After the game, Madrid's director general Jorge Valdano expressed his surprise at Mourinho's decision to bench striker Karim Benzema. Valdano said, Ultimately, we are spectators to whatever the coach decides to do. He (Benzema) is a good striker who can give us many options going forward. I hope he does not stay on the bench for too long. The situation surrounding him is unfair.
Mourinho shunned fears that the two dropped points would prove costly pointing to the fact that the whole second-half of the season remains.
He said, This draw is two points lost. We always want to win, but there is the entire second half of the season to be played. We didn't play at the rhythm we are used to during the first half. Almeria defended very well, were very organised and played up to their potential. Hats off to them for earning a very important point.
I think we have done well so far. We have won 15 matches, lost one and drawn two, but it isn't enough to be champions. We hope to improve in the second half of the season, he added.
The result ended Madrid's five match winning run in the La Liga and it also proved costly as Barcelona romped all over Malaga with a 4-1 win to cruise into their 13th successive league win.
Goals from Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Pedro saw Barca go into half-time with a 3-0 lead at the Nou Camp. Malaga got one back in the second half through Duda's free-kick. However, six minutes later Villa got his second, helping Pep Guardiola's side increase their lead at the top to four points.
In the Italian Serie A, leaders AC Milan were held to a 1-1 draw away at Lecce, thereby missing out on an opportunity to move six points clear at the top. Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the visitors ahead with a 49th minute opener. However, the home side rallied and Rubin Olivera scored the equalizer eight minutes from time to earn a point. However, the point failed to lift the team out of the relegation zone.
Juventus got back to winning ways thanks to a late stunner from Alberto Aquilani's which helped them beat Bari 2-1. 'The Old Lady' had taken the lead through Alessandro del Piero in the first half. But Bari equalized through Gergely Rudolf shortly after the break. Acquilani's winner leaves Juventus in fifth-place in the Serie A table.
AS Roma had a late own goal from Cesena to thank for as the visitors won 1-0 to sit at fourth in the table. Maximiliano Pellegrino was unlucky as he attempted to block Fabio Simplicio's close-range attempt but ended up inadvertently deflecting the ball into his own net.