Real Madrid had to bounce back from an early goal and seemed set to close things out against Villarreal, but couldn’t get the job done. A late-equaliser from Santi Cazorla – who netted a brace – gave Villarreal a huge point on their race to avoid relegation, as El Submarino Amarillo and Los Merengues played out to a 2-2 draw at Estadio La Ceramica. Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane netted first-half goals for the Santiago Bernabeu outfit.
An early goal didn’t unsettle Real Madrid
Right from kick-off it was clear both sides needed the three points, and the match started with a frenetic pace. Things were so intense that fans witnessed two goals within the first 10 minutes. Villarreal opened the score when Santi Cazorla curled a right-footed shot from the edge of the box, but Real Madrid equalised when Karim Benzema found the back of the net following a cross from Lucas Vasquez. Just like that, the score was 1-1 after the first eight minutes.
One would have thought things would cool off after that frenetic start, but it wasn’t the case. Real Madrid took control of the game following the equaliser, and players such as Luka Modric and Toni Kroos gain more and more importance on the build-up. The latter set up Madrid’s second goal, when a long cross from the German found Raphael Varane. The Frenchman nodded the ball home, but Sergio Asenjo could have done a bit more on the sequence.
Villarreal tried to shake off their rust, but Samuel Chukwueze was the only player who posed any kind of danger to Madrid’s defensive line. Los Merengues looked in complete control of the contest, and even had a great chance to add a third goal but Modric was offside when he tapped the ball home from close range. Santiago Solari’s men closed things out comfortably in the first half, and deservedly led 2-1 at the break.
The intensity decreased considerably during the second half
Los Merengues sent Isco into the game into the second half looking to gain more possession in midfield, but the move didn’t pay off. Even though Real Madrid managed to move the ball around, they lacked the pacey threat of Bale, who caused all sorts of problems to Miguel Layun during the first half. But if one thing was certain, it was that the second half lacked the intensity of the first half. At least during the first 15 minutes or so.
Once the game opened up, Villarreal came close to score when Gerard Moreno’s effort went slightly wide in the 64th minute. But Real Madrid would answer one minute afterwards with a great solo effort from Lucas. The winger, however, couldn’t find the back of the net thanks to an impressive save from Asenjo, who responded every time he was tested during the second 45 minutes.
Santi Cazorla becomes Villarreal’s unexpected hero
Villarreal’s biggest chance in the second half came in the 70th thanks to Alvaro Gonzalez. The centre-back won an aerial battle against both Benzema and Sergio Ramos, but his nodded effort came only inches away from the left post when Thibaut Courtois was beaten. In fact, it would be fair to say Los Blancos struggled during the final minutes. Villarreal’s attacking duo of Carlos Bacca and Karl-Toko Ekambi – both coming off the bench – looked threatening, but they failed to capitalise on their scoring chances.
El Submarino Amarillo would eventually secure their equaliser, though. With nine minutes left on the clock, Santi Cazorla took advantage of a perfect cross from Pablo Fornals to nod the ball home from close range. The entire Madrid defence needs to get the blame on this goal, though – Ramos, Marcelo and Courtois should’ve done a better job trying to defend the play.
The final minutes were quite intense and both sides generated chances. However, the accuracy just wasn’t there, and neither side managed to score the winning goal. The draw works for Villarreal since it allowed them to move away from the relegation zone, but Real Madrid shouldn’t be happy. Especially considering how the game happened down the stretch.
Villarreal: Asenjo (5); Layun (4), Alvaro (5), Ruiz (6), Jaume Costa (5); Caseres (5) (Ekambi (4), 63′), Javi Fuego (5) (Manu Trigueros (-), 82′); Santi Cazorla (8), Fornals (6), Chukwueze (7); Moreno (4) (Bacca (-), 68′)
Subs not used: Fernandez (GK), Funes Mori, Morlanes, Alfonso
Real Madrid: Courtois (5); Dani Carvajal (6), Varane (7), Sergio Ramos (5), Marcelo (6); Kroos (6) (Vinicius Jr. (-), 87′), Casemiro (7), Modric (5) (Valverde (5), 64′); Lucas (5), Benzema (7), Bale (6) (Isco (5), 46′)
Subs not used: Navas (GK), Nacho, Reguilon, Dani Ceballos
Goals: Santi Cazorla (1-0, 4′), Benzema (1-1, 7′), Varane (1-2, 20′), Cazorla (2-2, 83′)
Referee: Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes
Yellow cards: Alvaro, Jaume Costa (VIL); Casemiro, Sergio Ramos (RM)
Red cards: None
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