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Villarreal Show Strong, but Fall to Madrid 4-2

Villarreal came out full of fire in the White House, showing no fear on the pitch, but after a first-minute opportunity, Madrid began to control the state of play until a beautiful connection between Rossi and Cani led to a surprise 0-1 lead in the 7th minute for the visitors. Villarreal’s confidence immediately surged higher, and the style of play improved, the passing becoming smooth and short. Unfortunately, two minutes later, a break down in the back four led to a tap-in goal for Ronaldo, tying the match at one apiece. Ozil was arguably offside on the pass from Benzema, but Villarreal were clearly called out by Madrid’s attack, and the match was truly on.

The clubs went back and forth with Ruben having a strong opportunity go wanting in the 10th, and Lass Diarra responding with a great opportunity in the 11th. Thereafter Villarreal dropped a lot of men back forming a coherent defensive unit, and then focused on the counterattack. They steadily began to build their style of play, and looked impressive and dangerous. In the 15th, Rossi was kicked on the heel in the box in a moment that definitely could have led to a penalty, but the official ignored the foul, and Ruben sent a shot wide.

When Madrid did have an attacking opportunity, a group-effect defense, with up to eight or nine field players were back behind the ball regularly. The Madrid fans definitely were pertubed when Villarreal’s passing were on song, getting anxious as Villarreal would often triangle their way out of their own half, slowly and deliberately.

After more beautiful passing in the 18th, as Villarreal struck the ball mercilessly through the holes in Madrid’s back four, Marco Ruben plunked a shot over the head of Casillas in a huge match-changer. Villarreal took a 1-2 lead, and was definitely looking for more. What was most noticeable after 20 minutes was how the club tracked back in team defense, and how their passing was simply superb, stealing the momentum Madrid wanted to take.

Santi was just offside in the 22nd, and his goal on the pass from Rossi was denied. More beautiful play from Cazorla came in the 26th after he was sent through could have set up a great opportunity, but no one was on the end of his short cross to the middle except for a horde of white jerseys.

Through the first half hour, Ozil was probably the most dangerous man on the pitch from Madrid, but it was again Ronaldo in the 27th who put the ball in the back of the net, only to be well called offside. Madrid began to show signs of life, but they could not yet put their finishing touches on a goal.

Valero continued to be all over the pitch, perhaps the player of the first half despite not being directly involved in the two goals, setting up the offense as Villarreal attacked an breaking up pass after pass from Madrid’s attacking forces.

The attacks continued from an on-form Villarreal. In the 35th minute, Cazorla had an amazing run, only to be a little selfish in the final third and lose the ball at the top of the box. No one expected Gonzalo to lead an amazing charge down the pitch and center for Rossi in the 40th, but there he was, symbolic of Villarreal’s impressive play during the first half.

Madrid produced some danger in the 44th, when Villarreal began to break down on the defensive side looking forward to the end of the half, but Bruno came flying in to deny Marcelo a clean shot on goal, forcing a corner that resulted in nothing. Villarreal fans began to feel hopeful that they could take the 1-2 lead into the break. But then Angel foolishly gave up a free kick on Lopez’s right in the 45th, and on the cross, Ronaldo snuck his head on the end of it to force an even match heading into half. Incredibly disappointing, as Xabi Alonso made his first decent play in the half with the cross, and Ronaldo made his second.

At the half, Villarreal had to be feeling down, as they could have easily found themselves up by two or three on the back of some excellent play, but an opportunistic Real Madrid side took advantage of what Villarreal gave them and managed an even score to head to the locker room. Villarreal had to feel that if they continued to play with the presence they had in midfield then they would be able to at least take a point out of the match. The way things were going, though, it was clear that more goals would be coming, and Villarreal would have to keep the pressure up if they wanted any value from the match.

Sami Khedira came on for Madrid at the half, as Mourinho’s dissatisfaction with Lass Diarra - undeserved, I believe - continued.

The second half began with some dangerous attacks from Madrid before the match settled back down a bit into a similar style to the first half, perhaps a bit slower for each team as caution had broken into the pitch. In the 57th, Benzema ran well offsides, by a solid two yards, and Diego Lopez’s nonessential save on the resulting shot led to a leg injury of sorts - perhaps one of those leg injuries that happens where the legs come together. Not a minute later, Benzema was again through for a shot, this time onside, only to be denied by Lopez. The resulting free kick again seemed to lead to Villarreal injury, as Angel’s left leg was forced into the post as Lopez punched the ball away. Angel worked his way back on the pitch a minute later, but clearly stayed in pain. One way or another, Villarreal were on the back foot as the second half really got underway. Villarreal’s legs were getting tired, and it was only a minute before Angel fell back to the pitch, and a sub was needed. It was Mario coming on to replace the injured right back, in a match that Angel will probably not look to remember considering his trouble down the right side with Ronaldo and Di Maria, and the injury shortly after the break.

The pressure continued into the 64th minute, as Madrid were given a perfectly golden opportunity, only for some magnificent maneuvering from Lopez to force Ronaldo into an ill-chosen pass to Ramos who served Villarreal nicely by shooting it high. Garrido, having watched Villarreal’s defense begin to crumble, took a defensive move, bringing Musacchio in for Ruben, dropping into a 4-5-1.

More pressure poured forth in the 66th minute, and it was Catala, perhaps a surprise starter, with a spectacular tackle in the box. On the return, Giuseppe Rossi found himself free down the right as Villrreal created their first real attack in twenty-plus minutes, only to be denied by a rested Casillas. At this point, if Villarreal were going to pull points out of this, it was going to be solely the result of a cracking Rossi counter.

Madrid made the move to go for the glory, bringing Kaka on in the 70th for his first appearance of the season.

Cani managed to act a yellow out of the official, after a light clip from Xabi Alonso, but his legs were spent, and it was clear that Garrido was looking to bring him off well before the official indication went up that a defensive change would be on the way. With Oriol coming in to play "attacking" midfield on the left, Villarreal found themselves with six defenders, plus Bruno and Diego Lopez, on the pitch. Not a very offensive-minded set up at that point, but of course as futbol is rarely predictable, it was Joan Oriol who raced down the left and found himself with an opportunity to shoot wide of Casillas’ far post and show off his defense-minded credentials. And not a minute later Villarreal were again on the push, with a great tackle from Madrid’s defense tracking back.

Villarreal got a little greedy when they earned a corner and brought a number of people forward, and on the counter started by Casillas, it was up to Cazorla to pick up the professional-foul yellow to keep Madrid out of a clear scoring opportunity. Bruno was unfairly given a yellow card on a clean tackle of Di Maria while Bruno was splayed on the pitch in the 78th, and Di Maria earned himself a card by getting in Bruno’s face after the fact.

Hearts around the world then broke as Ronaldo made it a 3-2 match, coming from a clearly offside position to pull the ball back and score a tremendous goal. The goal should not have stood, and Garrido got sent off the pitch arguing against it. Capdevila was also censured, as Villarreal were rightfully infuriated.

The danger for a fourth was evident, and quickly realized as Ronaldo set up Kaka in a completely undeserved 4-2 lead. Mourinho running in front of Villarreal’s dugout properly received a bottle thrown at him from Cani, who also was sent off.

In a show of spirit, Villarreal managed to return to a clean, pretty passing attack over the last few minutes of the match, and were nearly rewarded for it when Rossi sent a sizzling free kick only to be saved again by Casillas.

Villarreal in the end suffered a completely undeserved two-goal defeat after a top-notch first half and a mediocre second, their tired legs losing it for them as Real Madrid took advantage of the energy and pressure from the home crowd to squeeze victory out of a turnip. Watching the yellow players after the final whistle, you could almost see steam rising from a few of them, especially Bruno, walk off the pitch. There should be no heads held low for the boys in yellow, though, after this match, as they gave a serious fight in an incredibly hostile environment against an extremely expensive group of players, and one absolute prick of a manager. From a personal standpoint, I didn’t know I could dislike Real Madrid any more than I already did. Congratulations, Madrid. And by the way, the second go of it back at El Madrigal will be absolutely brutal, so you better get ready.