Madrid arrived at Borussia Park buoyed by a 3-1 Clasico victory over Barcelona but were soon haunted by the sort of calamitous defending that saw them lose their Champions League Group B opener against Shakhtar Donetsk.
An error from Toni Kroos allowed the hosts an attack in which Marcus Thuram profited from some sloppy marking to score the opener, and the Frenchman netted a tap-in shortly before the hour mark to leave Madrid reeling.
The Spanish champions looked set to lose four consecutive European matches for the first time in their history before Karim Benzema scored with an acrobatic finish in the 87th minute and Casemiro swept home at the death.
The result may ease the pressure on Zidane for now, but his side must improve if their European hopes are to have any substance this season.
30 - Borussia Mönchengladbach are the 30th different opponent Karim Benzema has scored against in the Champions League, making him the fourth player to score against 30+ different sides, along with Lionel Messi, Raúl and Cristiano Ronaldo. Collection. pic.twitter.com/wYCW4XVEKI— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 27, 2020
Kroos ended a sleepy opening 28 minutes with a fierce, curling 25-yard shot that stung the palms of Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who pushed it around the post.
But five minutes later the hosts stormed ahead when Alassane Plea spotted the unmarked Thuram advancing into the penalty area and found him with a pass that he met with a stunning first-time finish into the top corner of the net, leaving Thibaut Courtois no chance.
Casemiro headed a Kroos corner wide early in the second half as Madrid rallied, and Vinicius Junior ballooned over the crossbar from 12 yards when Federico Valverde played him in.
But Madrid remained permeable at the back and there was chaos in the ranks as Plea received the ball unmarked in the box and when his shot was only parried by Courtois, Thuram tucked the rebound home from close range.
Courtois then denied Plea one-on-one as Madrid threatened to lose all control, and it was only when Luka Modric and Eden Hazard came on that they regained some composure.
Hazard hit the side-netting 16 minutes from time and, though the hosts continued to attack, Benzema found the net with an overhead kick from a Casemiro header to set up a tense finish.
Three minutes into added time, Luca Modric's looping cross was headed down by Sergio Ramos, and Casemiro netted the equaliser from six yards out.
What does it mean? Zidane struggling for breath
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will be disturbed by the start Los Blancos have made to this season's Champions League, and he will expect maximum points from forthcoming home games against Huesca and Inter.
Anything less and Zidane will find himself under considerable pressure at a club where European success is expected as standard.
Thuram too good
Madrid's sloppiness would not have mattered if Gladbach did not have the poise to take advantage, but Thuram scored with both of the shots he attempted and made a key pass as his side almost pulled off a memorable win.
Kroos lacks control
It was an error from Kroos that led to the hosts taking the lead and gaining a head of steam, and although he recovered to make two key passes in the game, his poor start set the tone for Madrid.
Key Opta Facts
- Real Madrid avoided defeat in an away Champions League game having gone two goals behind for the first time since December 2006 against Dynamo Kiev.
- Madrid have failed to win four consecutive matches across all European competitions for the first time since September 2006 (a run of five).
- They have conceded five goals in the Champions League this season, the joint most they have conceded at this stage of the competition (also in 2004-05 and 2019-20), whilst they have failed to win their opening two group games in consecutive campaigns.
- Marcus Thuram became just the third Frenchman to net a brace in their first home Champions League appearance, after Thierry Henry (1997, Monaco) and Moussa Dembele (2016, Celtic).
- Gladbach became the 30th different opponent Karim Benzema has scored against in the Champions League – only Lionel Messi (36), Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul (33 each) have scored against more different opponents in the competition's history.
Real Madrid entertain Huesca at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano ahead of Inter's visit to the Spanish capital three days later, and Gladbach host RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga before travelling to Shakhtar Donetsk.