Real Madrid were held to a dramatic 2-2 draw by Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica in their La Liga game on Sunday. Los Blancos went behind twice through Gerard Moreno and Moi Gomez’s strikes, but a Gareth Bale brace salvaged them a point even though he was sent off in added time for double yellow cards.
Story of the Match
Ferland Mendy made his Real Madrid debut as Zinedine Zidane opted to play both Karim Benzema and Luka Jovic in a 4-4-2 formation. They created their first chance in the fifth minute when Gareth Bale’s swirling cross from the left was almost put into his own net by former Real man Raul Albiol.
However, Los Blancos received a rude awakening in the 12th minute. Gerard Moreno robbed Sergio Ramos of possession before playing Karl Toko Ekambi through on goal. He forced a strong save off Thibaut Courtois, but Moreno scored off the rebound. The linesman ruled it out initially, but VAR intervened to give Villarreal the rightful lead.
A minute later, they almost doubled it but Courtois saved Ekambi’s attempt. Bale almost equalized in the 21st minute when his close-range free-kick skied just over. Casemiro also had a golden opportunity to put things level 10 minutes later. Lucas Vasquez’s looping cross from deep on the right forced Andres Fernandez to leave his goal wide open, but the Brazilian’s header went wide.
Los Blancos etched together a stunning passing move in the 35th minute, which ended with Vasquez hitting the side-netting. Madrid’s frustrations mounted when Benzema struck the post in the 44th minute.
However, their persistence was rewarded in the 46th minute when Dani Carvajal played a clever one-two with Jovic and passed for Bale to tuck in from close range to equalize just before half-time. Madrid almost took the lead in the 55th minute when Benzema cut in a pass for Toni Kroos, but Fernandez made two fine stops to deny the German.
A controversial moment came five minutes later when Benzema scored from close range, but it was adjourned invalid for being narrowly offside. Despite Real’s dominance, Villarreal retook the lead in stunning fashion at the 74th minute. Raphael Varane’s botched clearance from a cross fell to Moreno, who’s feisty shot was parried away by Courtois for substitute Javier Ontiveros to strike a shot off the rebound, which was put into the empty net by Moi Gomez.
However, Los Blancos rallied back to equalize in the 86th minute when substitute Luka Modric stole the ball in midfield and played the ball to Bale, who cut in and slotted in a strong shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-2. Extraordinarily, the Welshman ended up getting sent off in the dying seconds for a rash high-boot.
Takeaways from the Match
Gareth Bale is Zidane’s trump card this season
After the pre-season drama which ensued between Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale, one couldn’t have imagined him having started successive La Liga games early into the season. Eden Hazard’s injury has come as a blessing in disguise as Bale continued his fine form tonight. He maintained his dangerous work through the wings, often putting in zooming long-balls for his strikers. However, he netted both the goals, the second one a vintage finish. While he did freakishly get sent off late on and will miss Real’s next league game, Bale’s proving himself a real asset for his manager. Perhaps this love-hate relationship is producing unprecedented rewards, but Zidane will take it and look to reinvent Bale’s peak form through this season.
Gerard Moreno’s going places with Villarreal
If there was a constant thorn in Real’s side today, it was Gerard Moreno. He continued pressing their pressure points from the word go, often closing down players inside the box and looking to kick-start counter-attacks. He created the first goal by stealing possession and laying it for Ekambi, before scoring himself through Courtois. Moreno was also responsible for the second when his powerful attempt was scurried away sloppily, leading to Gomez’s strike. Moreno caused a lot of trouble for the Real Madrid keeper with his precise hits and maintained an energetic figure throughout. With already three goals this season and many more to come, the Yellow Submarine can expect big things from him.
Eder Militao needs to be brought into Real Madrid’s defence
Real Madrid might’ve dominated the chunk of the game, but defensive lapses allowed the hosts to take the lead not once, but twice! Both Ramos and Varane were at fault for the goals, with the captain losing possession sloppily leading up to the opener and the Frenchman playing Moi on for the second one. Madrid hasn’t kept a clean-sheet for seven games now, which just isn’t good enough. Eder Militao is now fit and roaring to go and must be unleashed in the next game. He’s a strong, assertive defender with the capability of getting a few clean-sheets in the bag to bring calm to Los Blancos’ defence. Unless he changes things up, the problems will just keep piling for Zidane.
Stand Out Players
In this thrilling encounter, both Moreno and Bale deserve the man-of-the-match for their performance. The Spaniard was like the heart and the soul of Villarreal attack’s, influencing their rhythm and constantly causing Los Blancos problems. Despite the red-card, Bale was extremely clinical with his work and definitely improved his reputation with the fans.