Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty as Real Madrid’s hopes of catching La Liga leaders Barcelona were all but ended with a 1-1 draw at Malaga on Sunday.
Madrid remain nine points behind Barca with 13 games to go after Raul Albentosa cancelled out Ronaldo’s opener 24 minutes from time.
However, Zinedine Zidane’s men were left to rue Ronaldo’s miss from the spot to make it 2-0 before the break when Carlos Kameni dived to his left to parry the three-time World Player of the Year’s effort.
A point moves Real level with Atletico Madrid in second ahead of the Madrid derby next weekend, but Atletico can move to within six points of Barca with victory over Villarreal later on Sunday.
“It is obviously going to be difficult because we have dropped two points, but we won’t give up,” said Zidane.
“There are 39 points still to play for. You think the league is lost, but the players and myself don’t believe that.”
Madrid were without the injured Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, whilst James Rodriguez was only left on the bench by Zidane.
Jese Rodriguez was handed a start after scoring Real’s second in a 2-0 win at Roma in the Champions League in midweek and should have opened the scoring when he shot straight at Kameni when clean through on 17 minutes.
However, the visitors were fortunate not to be behind moments later when Juanpi scuffed his shot with just Keylor Navas to beat and the Costa Rica international made a comfortable save.
Ricardo Horta then missed another glorious chance for Malaga when he fired into the side-netting unmarked at the back post.
When the opening goal did arrive it was in controversial circumstances as Ronaldo headed home Toni Kroos’s free-kick despite clearly standing in an offside position.
There was no doubt about the penalty award two minutes later when Ronaldo was brought down by Weligton.
Yet, the normally lethal Portuguese from the spot was denied by a fine low save by Kameni.
Malaga missed another great chance to level before the break as Navas parried Duje Cop’s shot into the air and Sergio Ramos got back to clear the looping ball off the line.
Navas then made an incredible stop just after the restart when Nacho turned Juanpi’s cross towards his own goal.
Yet, the Madrid stopper was finally beaten when Malaga’s two centre-backs combined for the equaliser as Weligton’s low cross was coolly slotted home at the back post by Albentosa.
Malaga could even have snatched all three points as Navas was again forced into action by a looping Charles header.
However, for the second time this season Malaga did enough to take a point from Real and almost certainly stretch their run without a league title to four years.