Villarreal practically played Real Madrid off the pitch for the first hour, then a combination of Villarreal nervousness and three controversial referreing decisions, all of which went against the Yellows, resulted in a 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Villarreal deserved to take a lead into the dressing room, as the combination of Bakambu, Adrian, Castillejo and Trigueros made life difficult for Madrid’s fullbacks, but we failed to convert opportunities into goals. The other big news of the first half was Sergio Asenjo, who injured his knee and had to be subbed off after 35 minutes.
It didn’t seem as though it would matter, though, as within ten minutes of the restart, both Trigueros and Bakambu had scored. Unfortunately, the Submarine seemed a little shellshocked at having taken such a lead, and Zidane made an inspired substitution, bringing on Isco for Casemiro. This quickly resulted in Ronaldo hitting the post from an attack, and within five minutes Gareth Bale had made it 2-1.
At this point referee Gil Manzano, who had handed out exactly nothing in the first 70 minutes, decided to help Madrid out, awarding them a penalty for a clear ball-to-hand incident that should not have been a penalty in a million years. Cristiano duly converted, preened himself and celebrated, and suddenly it was 2-2.
Basically playing 11 against 12, and with a shaky second-string goaltender in net, it didn’t look good, and within another 10 minutes Gil Manzano had made his second big decision in favor of the visitors. Samu Castillejo was fouled, lost the ball, the ref saw nothing and Alvaro Morata (who had come on for Benzema) stabbed the ball home past a rather flaccid Andres Fernandez.
Could we get back to 3-3? We had a shot, but—again—Gil Manzano ruled in favor of Madrid. A period of sustained Villarreal pressure resulted in a Marcelo clearance where the ball ran up against his arm, sort of ran up it in fact, but the referee ignored it. Guess it only counts when in favor of Madrid.
And so, we lost, 2-3. The Ceramica fans sang out “Asi, asi gana Madrid” (this is how Madrid wins) and it surely was. Still, as someone pointed out, at least we got to see coach Escriba lose his temper for the first time all season, and Roberto Soldado deserves credit too, getting booked for yelling about the penalty Gil awarded while sitting on the bench.
I remember Sid Lowe talking years ago about the early 2000’s when both Deportivo and Valencia won La Liga championships, and how the amazing thing was they did it even though week in, week out, the refereeing favored Barcelona and Madrid. Well, based on what has happened this season, and certainly on today’s evidence, it hasn’t changed.
Am I saying Villarreal would have won the match? No. We sat back too much once we had the two-goal lead; it was almost as if we had never expected to be ahead of Madrid by two goals, and so didn’t know how to play two goals ahead. (That’s not the first time this has happened, btw—we went 2-0 ahead against Barca at home a couple of seasons back, and lost 3-2 as well). But we deserved not to have a spectacular game ruined by unjust refereeing decisions, and that is what happened today. Watch the highlights here and you’ll see what I mean.
So. Now the question is how badly is Sergio Asenjo hurt. Please, Escriba, if he can’t play, use Barbosa instead of Andrés....
Moral victories being worth exactly nothing in the table, we’re now only one point ahead of Eibar and Athletic Club and four ahead of Espanyol. If we can channel our anger at this result into playing well, we’ll be OK. Endavant!