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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Real Madrid will fight 'until the end', insists Zidane as title hopes fade after draw with Levante

Pazzini scores late to earn a point for Levante to deal a further blow to Madrid's hopes of retaining the Primera Liga title.

Real Madrid players react to Levante's second equalising goal. Heino Kalis / Reuters
Real Madrid players react to Levante's second equalising goal. Heino Kalis / Reuters

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is refusing to give up on the Primera Liga title race despite another setback on Saturday night as Levante twice fought back to claim a 2-2 draw.

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos put the visitors ahead in the 11th minute before Emmanuel Boateng equalised minutes before the half-time break. Isco looked to have earned the reigning champions all three points when he struck with nine minutes remaining, only for Giampaolo Pazzini to level in the 89th minute for Levante.

A point does little for Madrid's fading hopes of retaining the Primera Liga title, with leaders Barcelona 18 points clear at the top. The Catalans could extend their lead to 21 points if they win at Espanyol on Sunday, albeit having then played one more game than Madrid.

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Regardless of the extra game, Barca's gap on Madrid is commanding and no team has ever overturned such a deficit to win the Spanish title. However, Zidane is refusing to give up entirely on his side's title defence.

"We will see. I will always say that we can win it until the end," the Frenchman said. "Yes, it's a lot of points and these were two that we dropped despite controlling large parts of the game. We were looking to get a third win in a row but we couldn't get it."

Zidane took the surprising move of substituting Cristiano Ronaldo, and his decision quickly backfired as Levante scored the equaliser soon after the Portuguese forward's departure.

"I changed him because I wanted another body in central midfield and have that extra force in the middle of the park and then we could defend with Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema," Zidane said to justify his decision. "Then I brought on Lucas Vazquez as well and that's it. I made the changes and I took him off."

If the result was one of frustration for Zidane, Levante manager Juan Muniz was full of praise for his team's performance.

"I said it for the whole week that we have to all be together if we are to get anything," Muniz said. "If we are all united we can do something. In the 80th minute they scored and the team still looked for an offensive response and it was an amazing effort with and without the ball and it was an important point that gives us a lot of confidence."