Karim Benzema scores again, Nacho sent off as disinterested Madrid survive at Levante

VALENCIA, Spain -- A distracted looking Real Madrid won 2-1 in Sunday evening's La Liga game at Levante thanks to two VAR-awarded penalties converted by Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.


Two more VAR calls which went Madrid's way should keep protests about the system quiet at the Bernabeu for a while. A fourth straight La Liga away win at least kept up the pretence that Madrid still see themselves in the title race.


Clearly at least half-thinking of the looming Copa del Rey and La Liga clashes with Barcelona, Madrid were outplayed for much of the game and very fortunate to win really, with Levante's goalscorer Roger Marti also hitting the woodwork from close range twice in the first half. Nacho had a torrid evening filling in at centre-back for suspended Sergio Ramos, picking up two yellows so now he is out of next weekend's La Liga Clasico.

Manager rating out of 10

6 -- Many of Madrid's biggest players keeping the handbrake on was a clear sign they were not paying heed to Santiago Solari's pre-game words about ensuring full intensity tonight. But then the coach taking off Benzema and Toni Kroos at 1-1 made it clear that he was also mostly concerned about Barcelona on Wednesday and Saturday. As usual Madrid had trouble dealing with the wing-backs of an opposition's 3-5-2 system, a problem which long predates Solari's arrival on the Bernabeu bench.

Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- General nervousness at set pieces possibly due to his dislike for coming of his line, while he also looked uncomfortable with the ball at feet. Saved well low down when Roger finally got a shot on target in second half, and could then do nothing about Levante's goal.

DF Dani Carvajal, 6 -- Got away with poor positioning when Levante had an early penalty claim, and was generally unsettled as Madrid's defence struggled down both flanks throughout.

DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- Safest of Madrid's back four, dealing calmly most of the time with Jose Luis Morales. That said, was not close enough as Levante's dangerman created the equaliser.

DF Nacho, 5 -- In for suspended Sergio Ramos, Nacho picked up his captain's customary yellow for a crude foul on Roger. Was the closest he got to the Levante forward, who again got away from him to convert one of his many chances on the night. Then got a second yellow late on for pulling down replacement Raphael Dwamena.

DF Sergio Reguilon, 6 -- Made a crucial clearance under his own crossbar in the early stages, but the youngster was caught out a few times when supposed to be covering at the back post.

MF Luka Modric, 6 -- Not his usually accurate self with his passing, with the very heavy pitch a possible factor. His biggest contribution was hitting the cross which Enis Bardhi handballed for Madrid's first penalty.

MF Casemiro, 6 -- Among those players a notch below their top intensity, with Levante's forwards and midfielders too easily getting into shooting or passing positions around the Madrid box. Was the protagonist for the second penalty when his spectacular reaction to a close passing boot was enough for VAR to confirm the spot kick.

MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- Another who seemed to be playing within himself, keeping possession neatly but not really hurting Levante with his passing. His set-piece delivery was excellent as usual and he seemed surprised when he was first Madrid player replaced.

FW Lucas Vazquez, 6 -- A typical hardworking performance without creating very much, from Vazquez. He was booked in the second half after frustratingly committing a foul following a misplaced pass which ended a promising counter.

FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Calmly sent Levante keeper Aitor Fernandez the wrong way from the spot for his fourth conversion from four career La Liga penalties. Not very involved in general play but almost made it 2-0 with towering header from a set piece.

FW Vinicius Junior, 7 -- One of the few Madrid players who took the game fully seriously, and as so often lately his pace seemed his team's most likely way to open up the opposition's defence. His decision-making at times let the youngster down, but it took an excellent save from Aitor to deny him when he raced clear at 1-1 in second half.


MF Federico Valverde, 6 -- The young midfielder replaced Kroos with 20 minutes remaining, without making a huge impression on the play.

FW Gareth Bale, 7 -- Got the last 15 minutes at centre-forward in place of Benzema, and was soon very, very calmly converting from the spot for the winning goal. Not a key part of Solari's plans, it seems clear, but keeps getting involved in decisive moments. His apparent refusal to celebrate the goal with teammates seemed a sign the Welshman would like to be starting much more regularly.

FW Marco Asensio, N/R -- Replaced Vinicius late on but is well behind the 18-year-old in the current Bernabeu pecking-order.