Soccer-Leaders Real Madrid held to frustrating 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano

By Fernando Kallas

MADRID, Feb 18 (Reuters) - LaLiga leaders Real Madrid were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at lowly city rivals Rayo Vallecano on Sunday as Joselu's early strike was cancelled out by Raul de Tomas' penalty, a result that could spice up the title race with surprise package Girona.

After dealing what could have been a massive blow to Girona's title hopes by thrashing them 4-0 last week, a wasteful Real Madrid stumbled at Vallecas and could see the Catalan upstarts edge closer in the rear mirror once again.

The draw saw Carlo Ancelotti's side move to 62 points, six points ahead of second-placed Girona who have a game in hand at Athletic Bilbao on Monday. Barca are a distant third on 54 points, three ahead Atletico Madrid in fourth.

Forward Joselu gave Real Madrid the lead after they took advantage of a wasted opportunity by Rayo forward Raul de Tomas that allowed the visitors to start a quick counter attack.

Brahim Diaz delivered a brilliant long pass into the stride of Federico Valverde who, unmarked on the right wing, put the ball on a plate for Joselu with a low cross that the Spanish forward only had to tap into the empty goal.

Joselu's first-time effort from inside the box was at first ruled out for offside by the linesman but VAR quickly corrected the decision as the Spanish forward was clearly onside.

Real dominated proceedings with up to 65% possession but were wasteful and allowed the locals to equalise in the 27th minute with De Tomas' penalty after the VAR spotted a handball by midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.

The equaliser sparked wild celebrations among the Vallecas' crowd, with the stadium roaring support for their team who have moved up a spot to 16th, eight points off the relegation places.

Missing injured England midfielder Jude Bellingham, Real were on top in the second half but kept missing chances.

The closest they got was a Toni Kroos free kick from the edge of the box that was brilliantly saved by Stole Dimitrievski who leaped to palm the ball round the post from a curling strike that was destined for the upper left corner in the 80th minute.

The disgruntled visitors were reduced to 10 men in added time when 75th minute substitute Dani Carvajal was shown two yellow cards in two minutes.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Ken Ferris)

((Fernando.Kallas@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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