Football: Real Madrid held to draw by Sporting Gijon on Rafel Benitez bow

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (right) reacts next to Sporting Gijon's midfielder Carlos Carmona during the Spanish league football match Sporting Gijon vs Real Madrid CF at the El Molinon stadium in Gijon on Sunday.
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (right) reacts next to Sporting Gijon's midfielder Carlos Carmona during the Spanish league football match Sporting Gijon vs Real Madrid CF at the El Molinon stadium in Gijon on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP) - Rafael Benitez's reign as Real Madrid boss got off to a poor start as his side of star names were held 0-0 by newly-promoted Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Sporting were playing their first game back in the top flight for three years, but roared on by a vociferous home support they matched the visitors.

They could even had taken a famous three points had Antonio Sanabria's first-half header been deemed to have crossed the line.

"It's clear that the first-half wasn't good at all. In the second-half the team controlled possession a lot more, we took the initiative and in the few chances we had we didn't take them," Madrid captain Sergio Ramos told Canal Plus.

Benitez started with Gareth Bale in a more central position, but the Welshman was again disappointing as Madrid failed to create clear-cut chances before the break.

Indeed it was the hosts who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Sanabria's headed effort came back off the underside of the bar and appeared to just clip the goal line on its way back out.

Sporting also had the first chance of the second period when Carlos Carmona sent a bullet header inches past the post.

However, the Asturians then had to withstand wave upon wave of Real attack in the final half hour.

Cristiano Ronaldo was uncharacteristically wayward in front of goal as he somehow failed to direct James Rodriguez's inch-perfect cross on target.

The World Player of the Year missed an even better chance 15 minutes from time from another fine cross by Danilo.

Sporting 'keeper Ivan Cuellar salvaged a point for his side with a stunning save to turn Ronaldo's fiercely struck effort behind.