Real Madrid 1-1 Levante: Marcelo Sees Red for Moment of Madness as Levante Hold Frustrated Madrid
Real Madrid faced newly promoted Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga's noon kick-off, hoping to establish dominance against one of the Spanish top flight's minnows.
Zinedine Zidane's side was a rotated one, taking advantage of the depth that his side now has with Kiko Casilla, Theo Hernandez, Lucas Vasquez, and Marcos Llorente coming in for Keylor Navas, Luka Modric, and the still-suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, with Casemiro and Gareth Bale making the bench.
Madrid set about exerting a near-total authority on the game from an early stage, with their visitors happy to let them keep the ball, and content to sit very deep in their own half.
However, a spanner was (literally) thrown into the works after 12 minutes, after a static Madrid failed to defend Ivan Lopez's monstrous long throw, with Ivi pouncing to give the visitors a shock lead and make Dani Carvajal look rather silly in the process.
Long throw. Ivi gets it near post and turns it past Casilla. Alert from him, oddly not alert from Madrid.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) September 9, 2017
Things then went from bad to worse for Los Blancos as starting striker Karim Benzema had to be withdrawn through injury, with Gareth Bale taking his place in the central role.
Madrid forced a way back into the game ten minutes before the interval, with Sergio Ramos providing a - you guessed it - towering header from a corner, which Raul managed to keep parry, but only as far as Lucas Vasquez, who restored parity for Zidane's side.
With Bale up front, Madrid had a far more imposing outlet up front, and the Welsh talisman could have given his side the lead before the break, choosing to shoot with the outside of his left foot, rather than his weaker right, when through on Raul's goal.
Things began to get a little tetchy in the second half, as Levante continued to make life hard for their hosts, countering efficiently, tackling robustly, but not able to regain their lead. Madrid still looked a little disjointed in their unfamiliar line-up, and looked more to be relying on the qualities of their individuals than their shape and system.
Isco was thrown on at the hour mark to attempt to help Zidane's side find more space, but the resolute discipline and concentration shown by Levante meant that they were worthy contenders to Los Blancos, stifling them excellently.
After a rare foray into Madrid's half for a corner, Levante were almost caught cold by Los Blancos' ruthless counter attack, with Raul saving wonderkid Marcos Asensio's left-footed shot superbly, reminding everyone watching that Madrid only need one chance to punish any team.
A frustrated Bernabeu was left near silent on 87 minutes, as Gareth Bale hung superbly in the air, but could only angle Isco's cross wide. Seconds later, Marcelo was denied once again by Raul, after Kroos played him in.
Chaos then ensued as Marcelo then received a straight red card for lashing out at a Levante defender, whom he collided with after taking his shot. The incident happened right in front of the referee and epitomised the frustration shown by Madrid fans and players alike.
Kroos still found time to bend a low shot against the Levante woodwork, before the final whilste sounded. This capped off a truly infuriating afternoon for Los Merengues, who have dropped further points early in the season, after being frustrated by Valencia in a 2-2 draw in their last match.