Late Sporting strike stuns Real
Jose Mourinho lost his first home league match in more than nine years as Real Madrid's title hopes suffered a huge blow with a shock 1-0 loss to Sporting Gijon at the Bernabeu.
Miguel de las Cuevas, the former Atletico Madrid player, scored the only goal of the game in the 79th minute to end not only Mourinho's remarkable personal run, but also Madrid's 100 per cent record at home this season.
The loss means Madrid could find themselves eight points adrift of Barcelona if the league leaders beat Villarreal later this evening, and is a shot to morale ahead of Tuesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Tottenham Hotspur.
"It was three crucial points that we have lost and there aren't many more points to play for," said Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. "We had people missing, but I don't think the team can be faulted. The attitude was fantastic, but the ball just didn't want to go in tonight."
Even the return of Gonzalo Higuain after more than four months out through injury could not help Madrid, who badly missed key players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso. Madrid paid tribute to former star Ronaldo before the match and the home fans must have been left yearning for some of the Brazilian's magic at the end of a lacklustre first half.
With several first-team players absent due to a mixture of injury and suspension, Madrid lacked any real spark in a goalless first half and they barely threatened visiting goalkeeper Juan Pablo Colinas before the break.
Angel Di Maria, who was the home side's biggest threat, had one long-range effort comfortably saved while Sami Khedira might have done better with a header just before the break. The best opening of the first period fell to Sporting in the 41st minute, but Nacho Novo, having rounded Iker Casillas, fluffed his left-footed shot and allowed Ricardo Carvalho to save Madrid's blushes.
The start of the second half saw Madrid twice test Colinas through Mesut Ozil and Di Maria, and the 56th-minute arrival of Higuain gave the hosts an extra edge up front. The Argentina international, whose last appearance came back in November due to a herniated disc that required surgery, almost scored within three minutes of his arrival with a thunderous drive that Colinas parried over at his near post.
De las Cuevas strike stuns Real
Emmanuel Adebayor then headed a decent opportunity over for the hosts. However, Madrid could not find the breakthrough and they were hit with the ultimate sucker-punch 12 minutes from time when De las Cuevas scored. Nacho Cases laid the ball inside to the unmarked midfielder and his low shot went in off Casillas' right-hand post with the Spain international given no chance.
That goal sparked a frantic late onslaught from the home side and the Sporting goal seemed to lead a charmed life as Madrid went close on numerous occasions. Adebayor saw two efforts saved, Khedira had another two shots blocked on the line while Ozil, Sergio Canales and Ricardo Carvalho all had opportunities.
However, the hosts could not take advantage of any of them as Sporting held on to claim a stunning victory and end Mourinho's incredible unbeaten home run whilst in charge of Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Madrid.