Immediate Reaction: Villarreal 2 – 1 Real Madrid

Immediate Reaction: Villarreal 2 – 1 Real Madrid

Villarreal 2 – 1 Real Madrid (Pino, Moreno; Benzema). Here’s our quick reaction to the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, statistical review and more.

It’s hard to say what was at the top of Real Madrid’s list of problems today at the Estadio de la Cerámica. But regardless of what was most concerning to any individual Madridista watching, the list of issues was long.

For one, there is the intangible: Intensity. The winning team had it, the other did not. Villarreal started on the front foot, forcing Real Madrid’s defense into mistakes and getting into good scoring positions early on.

Tactically, there was clear confusion in Real Madrid’s right half-space between Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger, and two Villarreal players in particular – Gerard Moreno, Yéremy Pino – exploited that channel several times during the game with their cutting passes, dribbling and movement.

And as exceptional as Real Madrid’s back line was, they could have limited some of the damage if their press had either: 1) been (much) better; or 2) are not deployed at all. Many of the players clashing in deeper positions should do, came to Villarreal carving through separate pressing sequences.

As it went into the first half, goalless – a result which flattered Real Madrid – Ancelotti’s men struggled to find opportunities at the attacking end, although they had sporadic chances that they could not capitalize on. Villarreal also did well to limit Benzema and Vinicius’ space. In particular, Juan Foyth – a player who has had success against Vinicius Jr before – defended the Brazilian wing as well as you can. On the opposite wing, Fede Valverde had a quiet game.

There were no changes in the first half (neither in personnel nor in performance), and Villarreal took a deserved lead in the 47th minute, after Ferland Mendy gave the ball away, Real Madrid’s defense was unable to recover, Rudiger has grown up. when he shouldn’t, and to bring it full circle, Mendy redirected the ball into his own net:

Real Madrid equalized through Karim Benzema’s penalty, then fell behind again three minutes later after Gerard Moreno put Villarreal ahead with a penalty of their own. And while penalties are (and will be) talking points (including one that wasn’t called later after Rudiger was elbowed in the box), those side notes shouldn’t dominate the main story: Villarreal deserved their win and Real Madrid should be improved.

We will break this down in more detail in the following hours.

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