A fine match of football at El Madrigal, one has to say, regardless of who you supported. Villarreal took a deserved early lead through Cani in the 21st minute; shortly before halftime Gareth Bale stroked home a perfect pass from Carvajal to make it 1-1. In the second half Villarreal had a golden chance to take the lead on an end-to-end counter, but an unmarked Jaume Costa put the ball wide of the net with Diego Lopez beaten--and then Madrid scored from a counter of its own (Cristiano, of course, who always scores against us).
But then Villarreal, rather than throwing in the towel, came forward and evened the score, Gio firing home a rebound after Diego Lopez had palmed a Cani shot away. Both keepers then pulled off nice saves to keep it 2-2.
Some thoughts in no particular order:
(1) Villarreal were unlucky not to take a lead into halftime. Jony had a couple of chances where he couldn't quite get the ball to settle or get the right touch, and as for Diego López's double save on Aquino....just wow.
(2) Perhaps it was because of the new RM lineup and players getting used to each other, but the Whites seemed most effective when they reverted to their old counterattacking style where they could exploit their speed. Both their goals came from this sort of play. Even though they dominated possession (about 65%, I think) they really did not do a lot with that possession much of the time.
(3) Villarreal were almost too confident at times, turning the ball over when getting caught in possession on a number of occasions. But that was the price they had to pay for playing at speed. Real Madrid may have been stronger and taller, but they were not fitter or faster.
(4) Javier Aquino will sleep very well tonight. He worked hard on both ends of the pitch, was fouled hard (and gave as good as he got). He will rue his poor pass behind Gio that led to a counter and Madrid's second goal, but he played very well on the night. Watching him in action today, the coach's to leave him on the bench for Mexico vs USA was even more baffling.
(5) Bruno and Cani were quality, and Cani's goal was no less than he deserved on the day. Yet again, he played 90 minutes! BTW, in the first half Bruno made 27 passes--all successful. 27 for 27.
(6) The subs nearly made an impact for both sides. Di Maria went to ground in the box under a Musacchio challenge, which could have given RM a penalty. I thought it was the right call to ignore his shouts, though. Pina nearly scored with a bullet of a shot that Lopez kept out.
(7) It did feel like we were hanging on at the end, though part of that was because we were happy to try to win possession and then break Hernán down the right on a counter. Unfortunately the only time that worked, he was tripped in the area but the play had been called back for offside.
(8) RM fans will be disappointed with the result (they expect to win all the time). Certainly they have to be concerned with the left side of their defense, which we were able to open up time and time again. Although they controlled play, they didn't seem able to catch us in many man-on-man situations. Perhaps an incisive passer like (dare I say it) Mesut Ozil would have made a difference....
(9) Karim Benzema. MIA. Did he do ANYTHING?
(10) Not sure why Diego Lopez's reward for today's work is to sit on the bench in the Champions League....
(11) Our goals for the match: play well, avoid injuries and suspensions, and keep the good vibes going. On all those fronts, we succeeded. And we picked up a point, too. Endavant!!!