Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 44th goal of the season but Real Madrid could still only manage a 1-1 draw at relegated-threatened Real Zaragoza.
Zaragoza started the brighter and went ahead through a well taken goal from former Sheffield Wednesday loanee Rodri in the sixth minute and despite Ronaldo’s equaliser just before the break, Zaragoza had their own chances to win it in the second half before honours finished even.
The result means that Real failed to capitalise on rivals Barcelona’s earlier 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo and remain 14 points adrift of the leaders but the point will mean more to Zaragoza who stay two points clear of Celta Vigo and the drop zone.
Zaragoza, who have yet to win a match in 2013, started the stronger against an unfamiliar looking Real Madrid side with many of their big names on the bench with Jose Mourinho perhaps keeping one eye on their Champions League clash against Galatasaray on Wednesday.
The home team should have gone ahead in the third minute of the match but Rodri scuffed his shot badly into stand-in keeper Diego Lopez’s hands from Francisco Montanes’ excellent run and cross. But Rodri did not have long to dwell on the chance before putting his side ahead only two minutes later with an excellent finish from Apono’s through ball, the Madrid defence at sixes and sevens.
His confidence up, Rodri almost made it two, arrowing a shot just over Lopez’s top corner from distance.
A well marshalled Zaragoza defence also limited Madrid to shots from distance for the most part, Ronaldo firing a shot wide from Marcelo’s cross. And Glenn Loovens did well to clear Pepe’s goalbound effort off the line after Roberto had fumbled Luca Modric’s free kick.
Despite his one attempt from distance, Ronaldo had been kept quiet but that changed ten minutes before the break in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, the ball ricocheting back to him off two defenders before he rifled home his 28th goal in the league and 44th of the season.
A terrific save from Roberto from Michael Essien’s header kept the home side level and Zaragoza finished the half strongly with both Montanes and Rodri forcing Lopez into saves.
Real should have been ahead within minutes of the restart and they had three bites at the cherry. A great save from Roberto denied Ronaldo a second from Jose Maria Callejon’s neat pass before Marcelo rifled the follow-up against the post and Essien blazed the final chance over the bar.
Referee Alberto Undiano then waved away penalty claims for Zaragoza as Helder Postiga tumbled under Essien’s challenge before the Zaragoza striker had his point blank header brilliantly saved by Lopez.
Mourinho rang the changes on the hour, bringing on big guns Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira but still Zaragoza looked more likely and Postiga had another late chance to be the hero but for another smart save from Lopez.