Warsaw, Poland, Nov 3 – Real Madrid blew a two-goal lead and the chance to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Legia Warsaw behind closed doors in the Polish capital.
Gareth Bale fired home Madrid’s fastest ever Champions League goal after just 55 seconds before teeing up Karim Benzema for Real’s second.
However, Legia launched a stunning fightback as goals from Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, Miroslav Radovic and Thibault Moulin put the Polish champions on the verge of a famous victory.
Mateo Kovacic salvaged some pride and a now 27-game unbeaten run for the European champions when he slotted home five minutes from time.
“It was strange with the stadium being empty, but it is no excuse,” Bale told BeIN Sports Spain.
“We need to be better defensively and with our chances we need to be more clinical.”
A draw means Madrid now trail Borussia Dortmund by two points at the top of Group F with two games to play.
Dortmund qualified for the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Sporting Lisbon in the other game in the group.
“I am the one responsible for all this,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
“In the end we didn’t lose and that is the good thing for us, but it is a strange sensation.”
In front of an empty stadium due to Legia’s sanction for violence and racist chanting in their 6-0 thrashing by Dortmund in September, Bale celebrated his new bumper six-year Madrid deal in style by rifling a volley into the top corner.
A comfortable night looked in store for the visitors when a brilliant team move saw Kovacic feed Bale on the right side of the area and his cut-back was deposited into the bottom corner by Benzema.
“We are not happy with the result and we need to learn from this and bounce back stronger,” added Bale.
“I think we had control of the game at 2-0 and just lost concentration.
“This happens in football. If you do this at this level you get punished.”
Legia hit back with a stunning effort of their own as Odjidja-Ofoe finished off a fine individual effort by firing into the top corner.
Madrid have now not kept a clean sheet in 10 games and Zidane’s decision to play an ultra offensive 4-2-4 formation backfired after the break as their lack of numbers in defence was exposed.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was also to blame when he let Radovic’s low effort slip under him for the equaliser just before the hour mark.
Real awoke from their slumber as Arkadiusz Malarz parried another fierce Bale volley before an off-colour Cristiano Ronaldo headed a great chance just wide.
Yet, Madrid were caught out on the counter-attack seven minutes from time when Moulin looked to have sealed the most unlikeliest of comebacks when his curling effort clipped the post on its way past a helpless Navas.
Real responded immediately as Kovacic drilled Dani Carvajal’s backheel into the bottom corner.
And Madrid could even have salvaged all three points deep into stoppage time when substitute Lucas Vazquez smashed the crossbar.