Valencia denied former manager Rafael Benitez a much-needed win on his return to Mestalla as Paco Alcacer’s late header earned his side a 2-2 draw with 10-man Real Madrid
Benitez, making his return to a club he guided to two La Liga titles, will likely face further difficult questions over his future after another indifferent display that saw Alcacer grab the headlines moments after Gareth Bale looked to have headed in the winner.
Karim Benzema had opened the scoring with a well-worked early goal to silence the home crowd, but Gary Neville’s men were rewarded for their endeavour when captain Dani Parejo levelled from the spot before half-time.
Like in their 3-1 win over Real Sociedad on Wednesday, Benitez’s men lacked fluency in the final third, with Neville’s former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo failing to inspire his side to a victory that would have moved back to within two points of the summit.
Mateo Kovacic – in for James Rodriguez following the Colombian’s reported speeding incident in midweek – was sent off 21 minutes from time for a poor challenge, although Bale looked to have given his manager breathing space when he nodded in Toni Kroos’ delivery eight minutes from time.
However, when Alcacer headed home unmarked a minute later, Neville – still to mastermind a league win – was ensured a deserved point, while Benitez was left to rue another sloppy display.