MADRID • Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty as Real Madrid's hopes of catching Spanish La Liga leaders Barcelona suffered another blow with a 1-1 draw at Malaga on Sunday.
Third-placed Real are nine points behind Barca (63 points) with 13 games to go, after Raul Albentosa cancelled out Ronaldo's opener.
Atletico Madrid also failed to gain significant ground on Barca, as they were held 0-0 at home by Villarreal to move eight points behind in second.
However, Gary Neville's upturn in fortunes as Valencia manager continued with a third win in a week in all competitions, 2-1 at Granada.
Real were left to rue Ronaldo's miss from the spot to make it 2-0 before the break when Carlos Kameni dived to his left to parry the shot from the three-time World Player of the Year.
"It is obviously going to be difficult because we have dropped two points, but we won't give up," said manager Zinedine Zidane, who had the consolation that the draw at least extended his unbeaten run in his new job to eight matches in both La Liga and the Champions League.
"There are 39 points still to play for. You think the league is lost, but the players and myself don't believe that."
Real were without the injured Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, while James Rodriguez was left on the bench by Zidane.
They were lucky to go in front as Ronaldo headed home Toni Kroos' free kick despite clearly standing in an offside position.
There was no doubt about the penalty awarded two minutes later, though, when Ronaldo was brought down by Brazilian defender Weligton.
Yet, despite being normally lethal from the spot, the Portuguese was denied by a fine save by Kameni.
Malaga's two centre-backs then combined for the equaliser as Weligton's cross was slotted home at the back post by Albentosa.
Chances were far harder to come by at the Vicente Calderon, as the two best defences in the league stood firm. A point consolidated Villarreal's position in fourth, five points adrift of Real.
"Villarreal defended their area and counter-attacked very well," said Atletico manager Diego Simeone.
Neville's Valencia recorded back-to-back league wins for just the second time this season as Granada passed up a wave of second-half opportunities.
"I think at the moment we need to win all our games to keep the momentum going," said the Englishman. "The dressing room changed significantly in the last week in terms of mood, as when you win there is a stronger belief."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS