Real Madrid survived a late onslaught from Villarreal to leave the Estadio de la Cerámic with a potentially valuable point.
Zinedine Zidane made seven changes to the team that lost 4-1 to Valencia before the international break, as Dani Carvajal, Eden Hazard, Mariano Diaz and Martin Ødegaard were the notable players to return to the starting XI.
And the initial stages looked very positive. Less than two minutes in, a really sharp Madrid had a superb transition led by a Toni Kroos switch to Carvajal. The returning right-back’s first attempt was trying to pick out an off-side Lucas Vazquez, but Alfonzo Pedraza deflected it back to Carvajal, who’s second cross found Mariano Diaz’ diving header. Madrid took the lead.
But after that, things became far too passive, although, defensively comfortable for the visitors. Unai Emery’s side then carved out their first opening. Gerard Moreno popped up on the right, and his fizzed cross picked out Dani Parejo, who got ahead of Raphael Varane, but headed over the bar.
Zidane would have been happy with how his team performed defensively, but having only created one chance against an unusually flat Villarreal, there was a sense that this was a chance missed by Madrid, who sat too deep for the majority of it.
And if the first half was passive, the second half was a disgrace in intensity, sharpness and progressive play. Villarreal grew back into the game, and Madrid were doing nothing to counter it.
A sloppy Kroos clearance led to a big chance for Moreno, who dragged a right-footed shot wide from inside the box, that was a warning sign if any for Madrid, who really needed to wake up and play further up the pitch. The changes from Emery then brought the change he wanted to see on the pitch, and they were adequately timed too.
Pervis Estupiñán and Samuel Chukwueze were on, and their pace made an impact straight away. Around the 70th minute mark, Estupiñán made a pacey run in-behind Carvajal, and his flash across goal travelled the distance, eventually falling to Parejo who should have scored from the edge of the box on his right-foot.
Then the tide completely changed, but a moment which was the result of Madrid’s attitude and intensity. On a break, Vinicius should have picked out Lucas Vazquez with a really simple pass, but instead he misplaced it, leading to a quick Villarreal transition. Chukwueze was through on goal, and the advancing Thibaut Courtois brought him down in the box.
Moreno stepped up and scored what was a well deserved equaliser. And there could still have been further damage, had Varane not made a huge block to deny the goalscorer, who delayed his shot, allowing Madrid’s captain back in to make the block. A chance missed for both sides to go further up the table, considering Barcelona play Atletico Madrid later this evening, but for Zidane, who was missing the likes of Sergio Ramos, Casemiro and Karim Benzema, a point in a difficult stadium could prove to be important come the end of the season. Despite it looking disappointing on the face of it.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? Inter Milan
When? Wednesday 25th November @ 21:00 CET
Where? San Siro, Italy