Real Madrid held to 2-2 home draw by Espanyol

JOSEPH WILSON Associated Press Published:

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Real Madrid's woes in the Spanish league worsened on Sunday when it was held to a 2-2 home draw by relegation-threatened Espanyol.

Madrid appeared set to record its seventh straight home win in the league after Cristiano Ronaldo scored to cancel out Sergio Garcia's opener before setting up Fabio Coentrao to put Madrid up after halftime.

But Espanyol substitute forward Juan Albin scored from of a poorly defended corner for a share of the points two minutes from time.

Barcelona can add to its 10-point lead over the defending champion when it hosts second-place Atletico Madrid later.

The blow to Madrid's dwindling title defense hopes came just four days after it lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of their Copa del Rey series.

After the loss to Celta, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho was scathing of his player's attitude. He was no less so Sunday.

"The league is practically impossible," said Mourinho. "They are 10 points ahead and can be 13. Those are too many at this stage of the season.

"I have never been in a situation like this, dropping so many points and with a team so far from its objectives. It's new for me. The league looks impossible to me now, but we have to have the dignity to always try to win."

Elsewhere, Levante rose to fifth place after winning 1-0 at Real Zaragoza, while Rayo Vallecano beat Valencia 1-0 for its first ever victory at Mestalla stadium after 13 winless visits.

Madrid's troubles this season had been limited to its away games, but a modest Espanyol side was never at a serious disadvantage against the powerhouse.

"After a poor first half we were able to level and then go in front, but we didn't finish it off," said Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Espanyol remained unbeaten in three games under new coach Javier Aguirre and managed to end a run of seven straight losses to Madrid in which it had been outscored 21-0.

With Gonzalo Higuain injured and Karim Benzema ruled unfit with a tender ankle before the game, Ronaldo was left to lead Madrid's attack alongside former Espanyol forward Jose Callejon.

After Madrid's Luka Modric had hit the upright, Espanyol stunned the Santiago Bernabeu crowd in the 31st when Garcia, just back from a four-game suspension for insulting a referee, struck on the break.

Playmaker Joan Verdu used a one-touch pass to play Garcia in behind the defense, and the forward made the most of the chance by pushing forward and firing the ball into the far corner of Iker Casillas' net.

Madrid was average before Garcia's goal, and it appeared uncharacteristically sluggish and short on ideas afterward.

But Ronaldo stepped up to level in first-half injury time when he ran into the area and used the sole of his right boot to reach beyond his marker and volley Sami Khedira's cross beyond goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

Mourinho sent on winger Angel Di Maria for Modric at the start of the second half, seeking to spark his team.

But it fell to Ronaldo and Coentrao to put Madrid in front in the 48th when Ronaldo found his sprinting fellow Portugal international with a well-placed pass inside the box that he rolled into the net after resisting a tackle.

"Cristiano had a good game, his teammates did not," said Mourinho. "Their attitude was not good. We missed clear chances. The team doesn't show the same joy."

Madrid pressed forward to try and seal the win, but Casilla made three quality saves, including a one-handed stretch to redirect Di Maria's shot onto the goal-frame.

Madrid's effort again sputtered out and for the first time Espanyol took control of the ball and backed Madrid into its own area in the final minutes.

And the payoff came when Madrid allowed defender Hector Moreno to get two touches on a corner before slipping it to the unmarked Albin to fire home.

On Monday, Valladolid visits last-place Deportivo La Coruna, while Real Betis plays Celta Vigo.

On Saturday, it was: Sevilla 0, Malaga 2; Getafe 1, Osasuna 1; Mallorca 0, Athletic Bilbao 1; and Granada 0, Real Sociedad 0.