For those of you wondering how Villarreal would tackle the big boys under Fran Escriba, today was a useful pointer. Villarreal opened up in a 4-2-3-1 with Nicola Sansone as a lone striker, Castillejo, Jona dos Santos and Cheryshev playing between Sansone and the usual pivote of Trigueros and Bruno Soriano.
This worked well in the first half, and could have been even better if not for a fine save from Castilla off Cheryshev and Sansone’s decision-making in the box not being at its best. As halftime neared Sergio Ramos committed a handball offense just inside the box and Bruno Soriano stepped up and cheekily chipped the penalty straight down the middle to give Villarreal a deserved lead. Three penalties for Villarreal, one in each of the last three matches—when was the last time that happened?
HT Real Madrid 0-1 Villarreal
This was the first lead for Villarreal in the Bernabeu since January 2011, when first Cani and then Marco Ruben gave Villarreal a lead in a match they ultimately lost 4-2 (that was the one where Cani tossed a water bottle onto the pitch, José Mourinho antagonized Villarreal with his touchline celebrations, and Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick).
Real Madrid equalized quickly, a Ramos header off a corner kick knotting the score. The remainder of this half was dominated by Real Madrid, as Villarreal were pushed further and further back and conceded corner after corner. Still, Villarreal hung tough, and Madrid players began appealing for nonexistent penalties in an attempt to beat the deadlock. As the whistle neared, Madrid won a dangerous free kick, but Ronaldo’s attempt was straight at Sergio Asenjo—a fitting end to the match.
FT Real Madrid 1-1 Villarreal
Madrid’s undefeated streak remains, but their string of wins in La Liga is broken. Villarreal could perhaps have gotten even more out of this with a more incisive performance in the first half, but have to be pleased coming home with a point most other clubs won’t get.
The stats per whoscored: Shots 22-8 Madrid; corners 17-3 Madrid; possession 59-41 Madrid. Not surprising given our defensive strategy, to be honest. Bruno Soriano was whoscored’s man of the match but most Villarreal fans I think would pick Manu Trigueros.
Next up, a return to El Madrigal and a visit from Osasuna on Sunday. ENDAVANT!