Real Madrid missed the chance to move back level on points with rivals Atlético Madrid at the top of La Liga after being held to a 1-1 draw at relegation-battlers Elche.
Los Blancos had come into the match on the back of six straight wins in all competitions and looked on course for another when Luka Modric headed them in front after 20 minutes. Elche, who started the evening outside of the relegation zone only on goal difference, equalised early in the second half through a penalty from Fidel.
The hosts – winless in their last eight league games, but with three draws from their last five matches – started brightly and Emiliano Rigoni forced Thibaut Courtois into an early save.
Marcelo then saw a volley crash against the crossbar before the visitors went in front after 20 minutes. The Elche goalkeeper, Édgar Badía, touched a long-range effort from Marco Asensio on to the bar and Modric headed in the rebound.
Real thought they had been awarded a penalty in the 36th minute for handball against Víctor Rodríguez. The referee, however, reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor and overturned his original decision as the ball had hit the Elche midfielder on the thigh.
Elche were themselves awarded a spot-kick five minutes into the second half when Dani Carvajal pulled down Antonio Barragán after a free-kick was played into the box, and Fidel converted.
Zinedine Zidane’s side stepped things up again heading into the closing stages as Badía had to push away a low shot from Carvajal, before denying Sergio Ramos from close range. Zidane sent on Federico Valverde and Eden Hazard for the final 10 minutes and Karim Benzema’s flicked header from a cross by Modric dropped wide as Real had to settle for a draw.
A Luis Suárez header gave Atlético Madrid a 1-0 home win over Getafe in Diego Simeone’s 500th game in charge, keeping them top and ending the year with an unbeaten home record.
Suárez glanced in a lofted pass from Yannick Carrasco in the 20th minute and Atlético ground out the win to preserve their remarkable record of never conceding a goal to Getafe since Simeone became their manager nine years ago.
Atlético went into the match after being a dealt a double setback of Kieran Trippier being suspended for 10 weeks for a betting infraction and Diego Costa leaving the club after rescinding his contract. The absences did not seem to affect them and even though this was far from their most impressive performance of the season, they always looked in control.
Koke admitted Atlético had not been at their best but said: “We knew who we were up against a difficult team and we weren’t always precise with our passes but it’s three more points, which is what we wanted before the game.”
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The midfielder added. “We’ve had a spectacular year, after the lockdown we underwent a big change and took a step forward in the way we play, working and competing day in day out.”
He also paid tribute to Simeone, who has transformed Atlético’s fortunes since succeeding Gregorio Manzano in 2011. “We should congratulate the coach, it’s a lot of years in charge he’s given the team a lot of stability and he’s fundamental to the way we are,” Koke said.