VALENCIA (REUTERS) - Real Madrid's Gareth Bale came off the bench and coolly converted a penalty to secure a 2-1 win at Levante in La Liga on Sunday (Feb 24) as the European champions rode their luck to stay within nine points of leaders Barcelona.
Real came under heavy pressure early on but Karim Benzema gave them the lead towards the end of the first half from the spot after a penalty was awarded for handball following a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review.
Levante, who pulled off a shock 2-1 win over Real at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season, deservedly drew level on the hour mark with a sliding finish from Roger Marti, who had struck the woodwork twice before the interval.
Real struggled to impose themselves on the game but were awarded another hotly-contested penalty following a VAR review when Casemiro went down in the box following light contact.
Wales forward Bale, who had only replaced Benzema minutes earlier, deceived Levante keeper Aitor Fernandez with an ice-cool finish from the spot but barely celebrated the goal, brushing away team mates who tried to congratulate him.
Real had defender Nacho Fernandez sent off for a second booking late in the game, although the Spaniard's first yellow card meant he was already ruled out of next Saturday's 'Clasico' at home to Barcelona in the league.
Madrid are third in the standings on 48 points, two behind Atletico Madrid who beat Villarreal 2-0 earlier on Sunday and still adrift of Barca, who won 4-2 at Sevilla on Saturday.