Real Madrid were spared humiliation as Mateo Kovacic’s late strike earned them a 3-3 draw at an empty Legia Warsaw in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Madrid went ultra-attacking as BBC were complemented by Alvaro Morata to signal a shift to a 4-2-4 formation, while Fabio Coentrao started his first match for Los Blancos in over a year.
The match was played behind closed doors due to Legia being slapped with a stadium fan after a spate of unsavoury incidents involving their fans, and Madrid took advantage less than a minute in, courtesy of Gareth Bale’s superb half-volley, which coincided with his blockbuster, new contract.
Los Blancos followed up with several more chances before half-time, the first of which fell to Raphael Varane, who powered a header on target, but it was hacked away off the line.
Karim Benzema then curled the ball towards Arkadiusz Malarz’s bottom-left corner, only for the goalkeeper to push it away. The striker tried his luck again, this time from point-blank range, but he couldn’t scramble the ball over the line – and neither could Cristiano Ronaldo – after Malarz parried out Bale’s header.
The Welshman was the driving force behind Madrid’s attacking play, and he blasted another piledriver from the right-hand side, which dipped inches over the bar.
Better yet, a sweeping, passing move from Madrid saw Bale played into the Legia penalty area and the Welshman pulling back for a first-time Benzema finish.
However, their run of no clean sheets was extended to 11 when former Norwich City midfielder and Polish football’s best-paid player at 12,000 per week, Vadis Odijidja-Ofoe, shifted past one then another near the Madrid D, before bending the ball past Navas.
Coming out for the second half, Bale quickly smashed an angled volley on target that Malarz pushed away, before Guilherme’s free kick for Legia kissed the roof of Navas’ net.
The Poles were rewarded for their brave approach to the restart as they hit straight back from a Bale free kick and cancelled out Los Blancos’ two-goal lead via Miroslav Radovic, who fired a finish across Navas.
Bale’s lobbed pass into the Legia box then caused all sorts of problems for the hosts as Adam Hlousek almost deflected Benzema’s wayward shot past his own goalkeeper.
Ronaldo’s evening, meanwhile, only got more frustrating with each passing minute. The No 7 had a free kick from marginally outside the box, which Malarz punched clear, before having claims for a penalty turned down after he appeared to be pushed when heading a cross over.
At the other end, ex-Derby Country striker Aleksandar Prijovic latched onto a through ball that split the Madrid defence with his first touch but lacked the composure needed to beat Navas.
Still, the Polish Army Stadium erupted as best it could when Thibault Moulin was teed up for a first-time shot outside Madrid’s box that clipped the post and went in.
With only seven minutes left on the clock, Legia seemed to be heading for the best European result in their history, until another sweet strike saw Mateo Kovacic angle a long-range finish into Malarz’s bottom-left corner.
Legia Warsaw 3-3 Real Madrid
Odjidja-Ofoe 40, Radovic 58, Moulin 83 (LW) Bale 1, Benzema 35, Kovacic 85 (RM)
Legia Warsaw: Malarz; Bereszynski, Rzezniczak, Pazdan, Hlousek; Kopczynski, Moulin; Guilherme, Odjidja-Ofoe (Jodlowiec 87), Radovic (Prijovic 77); Nikolics (Kucharczyk 69)
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Varane, Coentrao (Asensio 77); Kovacic, Kroos; Bale, Benzema (Vazquez 65), Morata (Mariano 85), Ronaldo
Referee: Kralovec (CZE)