Real Madrid were left to rue a series of near misses on Sunday as they stumbled to a 0-0 home draw with Athletic Bilbao, dropping two points adrift of Barcelona in a tight Spanish title race.
Real also drew 0-0 in midweek at Barcelona but Sunday’s result leaves Madrid on 37 points at the half-way stage of the season, two points off Barcelona who top the table on 39.
Toni Kroos hit the bar, Karim Benzema saw an effort cleared off the line with a back-heel, and both Rodrygo and Vincius Junior forced snap saves on a frustrating night for Madrid.
Real defender Eder Militao was forced off after being poked in the eye and his replacement Nacho Fernandez also hit the woodwork.
Coach Zinedine Zidane brought on Gareth Bale and Luka Jovic, but Madrid failed to find a winner.
“It was neither bad luck nor complacency,” Zidane said after the game. “There’s no reason to get depressed about this, we need to keep calm and keep our heads up.”
“We created lots of chances and if we keep going then they’ll start going in. I feel sorry for the players. It would have been nice for them to get more; three points from three games isn’t great,” Zidane added.
For Bilbao, Kenan Kodro’s thunderbolt shot was ruled out for off-side in the first half while the Santiago Bernabeu lived on its nerves when Athletic flooded forward deep into added time with Asier Villalibre almost clinching a winner at the death.
Barcelona go into the brief Spanish winter break on top of La Liga after a glittering show led by Lionel Messi saw the defending champions beat Alaves 4-1 on Saturday.
Messi hit his 50th goal of the year with Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal also on target.
Sevilla are third on 34 points after their 2-0 win at Real Mallorca.
Leganes 2-0 RCD Espanyol
Osasuna 3-4 Real Sociedad
Real Betis 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Levante 3-1 Celta Vigo