Villarreal tamely fell 3-0 to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in jornada 10 of La Liga. With the result, the Yellow Submarine has returned to the relegation zone almost exactly two years later.
Our last visit to the bottom three led to the firing of Ernesto Valverde. Will this spell mark the end of Juan Carlos Garrido's generally successful tenure? Saturday's home game against Rayo Vallecano will tell the story.
It was a question of how many, really. Cristiano Ronaldo was one goal away from 100 in his Madrid career. From a Villarreal perspective, Giuseppe Rossi needed one goal to break a tie with Diego Forlán and become the club's all-time leading scorer in league play.
The onslaught was on from the opening whistle. Sergio Ramos had the ball in the net on 3', but he was offside on a free kick. Our typical shaky high line, but we survived thanks to the linesman.
We were not so lucky in 5'. Ángel Di Maria found Karim Benzema over the top, and he chipped over Diego López for an early Madrid lead. There was a hint of offside, but I didn't make much of it. Until later, that is.
More fault goes to Gonzalo Rodríguez for allowing the French striker between our two center halves. That is a cardinal sin, and we paid for it. Benzema was the only player in white in the picture, and he beat our whole back line.
Madrid kept coming, and the second goal followed shortly thereafter. Kaká received the ball at the edge of the box, and with Borja Valero(!) marking him, the Brazilian midfielder fired past López. No chance for our keeper, and 2-0 after just 10 minutes.
Then came our gilt-edged opportunity: Marco Ruben was in alone with Iker Casillas, but the linesman raised his flag. Ruben looked onside from replays, and it was no tighter than Benzema's position on the first goal. I doubt it would have mattered in the end, but that was a big chance in 13'. We saw little better in the following 77 minutes.
Madrid settled into a counterattacking posture, keeping the ball and unleashing when it had an opportunity. The game was resolved in 30'. From a Villarreal corner that marked our best spell of the match, the merengues went from end-to-end with a flourish.
Ángel Di Maria deservedly got a goal, slotting past López after he had left Rubén Cani in his wake. The ex-Zaragoza midfielder was out of position in this instance, functionally playing at left back, but that happens often after a corner at the other end. Bad defensive awareness yet again by Garrido's men.
Half Time: 3-0
Marco Ruben was our best performer, but that's not saying much. Madrid had relied on attacking down the left and surprisingly somewhat centrally, so Cristián Zapata was not very busy. Perhaps he should have gotten forward more, but we had under 40% of the possession for the match.
No changes at the break by either manager. Sr. Roig was shown in the owner's box, and he was not happy. As expected.
Madrid allowed the Yellow Submarine to come into the match a bit in the second 45'. Knowing that the job was done, and with another game on Saturday, the merengues were understandably complacent.
Except for Ronaldo, that is. With a personal record on the line, CR7 did not miss an opportunity to look for his goal. Stymied by Zapata(!) on a few occasions, the Portuguese star took to kicking at a few Villarreal defenders, and he deserved a yellow card for his efforts. But that is not in the La Liga referees' manual.
Juan Carlos Garrido made three substitutions, which naturally meant three different formations. First, Javier Camuñas replaced a very disappointing Jonathan de Guzmán in 52'. Like for like, and I was impressed with the ex-Osasuna man's contributions. My pick of our performers.
Then came Mario Gaspar for a hobbling Rossi in 60'. We desperately need Rossi to break Forlán's club record on Saturday, so hopefully it was nothing serious. Mario slotted into the midfield, so the starting 4-4-2 became a recently typical 4-2-3-1.
But the best was yet to come. With the game decided since the opening half-hour, Garrido brought Marcos Senna on for Ruben in 75'. And thus we reached my favorite formation of all: the 5-5-0. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition (YouTube)!
Ruben put the ball in the net at some point, but he was clearly offside. Unlike in the first half. And thus the game petered out; we did not even play the full two minutes of stoppage time. Rare to see that at the Bernabéu.
Full Time: 3-0