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Real Madrid surrender two points to storming Villarreal fightback

Pin Castillejo's equaliser rounded off Villarreal's comeback. EFE
Castillejo's equaliser rounded off Villarreal's comeback. EFE

Real Madrid surrender two points to storming Villarreal fightback

Real Madrid travelled to Villarreal on Saturday night to contest their final La Liga game of the season. Sat on a two-goal lead, ‘Los Blancos’ were cruising before the hosts stunned them to salvage a point.

Despite having a season-defining Champions League final just around the corner, Zinedine Zidane fielded a bold starting XI, risking all of his stars ahead of the trip to Kiev.

The game got off to an electric start and a Sergio Ramos error almost proved costly for Madrid. After clumsily gifting Enes Unal the ball, the captain let off a sigh of relief upon seeing the Turk blast wide of the target.

With 11 minutes on the clock, Gareth Bale, the man in flying form, punished Villarreal. In one swift pirouette movement, the Welshman swivelled on the spot in the box, swinging his right foot onto the ball like a sledgehammer to fire home the opener. Bale’s fifth goal in four La Liga appearances made it 1-0 to Madrid.

20 minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo doubled the madridistas’ lead when he hung in the air to guide a majestic header into the bottom right corner after a delightfully floated Marcelo cross.

A series of venomous long shots kept Fernandez on his toes before the break, but, thanks to the goalkeeper’s heroics, Villarreal went into the break with 'just' a two-goal deficit.

- The Yellows strike back -

Luca Zidane was called into action early in the second half and showed great judgement when he parried away a dipping Nicola Sansone free-kick.

2-0 up, Ronaldo was hoiked off to keep some gas in the tank for Liverpool next Saturday. Karim Benzema replaced the Portuguese forward and almost made an instant impact when he rounded off an incisive, Kroos-orchestrated counter-attack. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, his effort at the back post was met by a scrambling Fernandez who, once again, kept his side in the tie.

Villarreal thought they’d pulled one back when Sansone skipped away from Carvajal and dinked the ball over Luca, but Unal’s ensuing header was nodded off the line by Ramos. Nevertheless, the home fans only had to wait three more minutes for their goal. Having been on the pitch for just two minutes, Roger Martinez cut onto his right foot in the box and drilled the ball into the top corner. 1-2 and the game was well and truly on.

The hosts continued to pile on the pressure and their resilience was rewarded when Rodrigo sent a lofted pass over the Madrid back four and to the feet of an unmarked Samu Castillejo. The Spaniard only needed three touches - two to round luca and one more to prod home the equaliser. 2-2 with just five minutes to go.

Madrid woke up, but it was too late. Lucas Vazquez swung at a corner in added time but his volley whistled past the post. The referee blew his whistle to end the game and Real Madrid’s domestic campaign. 

Two lapses in concentration and some shoddy defending will no doubt give Zidane nightmares after his side’s final run-out before facing Liverpool’s prolific trident. If Real dominated the first-half, the second belonged to Villarreal who fought back to clinch a deserved point.


Thomas Davidson

Thomas Davidson

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