Real Madrid’s 16-game winning streak was brought to a halt by Villarreal at the Bernabeu last night. The El Madrigal-based club, which finished 4th on the La Liga table last year but failed to qualify for the Champions League group stages, put up a spirited display which gave ample evidence of their European credentials.
The visitors took the lead at the stroke of half-time after a rash handball by Sergio Ramos handed a penalty to the Yellow Submarines. Bruno Soriano finished the chance off with a wonderful panenka, changing the Madrid-based outfit’s half-time team talk.
It did not take long for Real to reply, as Ramos made amends for his own error by outjumping the Villarreal defense and thumping in a bullet header into Sergio Asenjo’s far post. After the goal, Real pressed hard and long for the equaliser, while Villarreal retained their defensive shape and looked to play their way out of defense.
With Real having the lion’s share of possession, they created a few chances – most notably a missed chance by Ballon D’Or contender Cristiano Ronaldo, who looked off-colour on the night. The Portuguese forward did not have the best of performances and, despite his enthusiastic efforts, failed to free himself from the defense.
The game finished in a little bad taste as Dani Carvajal talked his way into a booking from the referee after the final whistle. It seemed as if the Spaniard was remonstrating with match official Jose Luis Gonzalez over the matter of reduced stoppage time.
Here are 5 talking points that emerged from this fascinating game of football:
#1 Villarreal's Defensive Strength
The Canaries came into this game on the back of a strong defensive start to the season, having conceded only 2 goals in the 4 games that they’d played before this. Throughout this match, they maintained their shape well and allowed Real Madrid spaces at a premium.
The Madrid players had to resort to playing balls into the area from wide, as they could not negotiate their way through the center of a well-set Villarreal side.
While Real moved the ball to different parts of the field, Villarreal’s restrained attacking approach allowed them not to get caught on the break, in which situation it would have been easier for Real to find breakthroughs.
By not allowing Bale, Benzema or Ronaldo any room to run into on the break, they restricted Real tactically and matched them toe-to-toe for the length of the match.