Real Betis 0-0 Real Madrid: Los Blancos fire another blank to lose further ground
Real Madrid fired another blank as their LaLiga title hopes were further dented in a goalless draw away at Real Betis.
The reigning champions knew there was no real margin for error at Estadio Benito Villamarin following Barcelona's narrow 1-0 home win over Valencia earlier on Sunday.
However, on the back of failing to register an attempt on target in their 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg loss to Barca, Madrid once again failed to click in attack.
Karim Benzema had a first-half goal ruled out by VAR, but Carlo Ancelotti's side were otherwise subdued as they could only close the gap on leaders Barca to nine points.
Benzema thought he had given Madrid the lead with a superb free-kick early on, but it was ruled out after a VAR check due to the ball brushing Antonio Rudiger's arm in the wall.
While the visitors were unable to get a shot on target prior to half-time, Betis twice tested Thibaut Courtois, with Ayoze Perez forcing the Madrid goalkeeper into a good stop.
Claudio Bravo finally had something to do early in the second period when pushing aside Benzema's first-time effort from near the penalty spot.
Betis continued to look threatening and would have been in front if not for a big Courtois save to thwart Borja Iglesias, who had time to set himself and get a shot away in the box.
Rodrygo and Dani Ceballos both fired off target from good positions as Madrid, who started with Lucas Vazquez and Eduardo Camavinga at full-back, continued to toil.
Bravo stood firm in the Betis goal in a nervy conclusion to ensure the points were shared in Andalusia.
What does it mean? Madrid held again
Madrid did at least test the opposition keeper far more times on Sunday compared to their loss to Barcelona, but there is no doubt they have lost their killer instinct of late.
This is the sixth time Madrid have played out a goalless draw with Betis – against no side have they done so more often this century – albeit with this the first at Benito Villamarin.
Los Blancos still have to travel to Barca in two weeks, but their hopes of overhauling their great rivals at the top now look incredibly slim following back-to-back league draws.
Another blank for Benz
Ancelotti defended the form of Benzema on the eve of this match, but the former France international has now gone three games without a goal in all competitions.
Benzema was a little unfortunate to have a goal ruled out, but he failed to find a way through from any of his three attempts in another disappointing display.
Betis grateful to Bravo
Bravo made five saves in total to preserve a point for his side, with that the most he has made in an individual LaLiga match in 16 appearances this season.
In doing so, the former Manchester City stopper ensured Betis have now taken 10 points from the past 12 on offer, leaving them three points outside the top four.
Madrid host Espanyol on their return to league action next Saturday, while Betis have a Europa League last-16 first leg at Manchester United to look forward to on Thursday.