Nine Man Madrid Drop Two More Points In 1-1 Horror Show with Villarreal

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - MARCH 21: Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid CF runs with the ball during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid CF at El Madrigal on March 21, 2012 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Real Madrid's lead at the top of the Primera slipped to just six points for the second time in a week--once again, a late equalizer from a free kick given away in a dangerous area pegged them back for a 1-1 draw. Against relegation-threatened Villarreal and just three days into the tenure of new coach, former Deportivo La Coruña Trainer Miguel Ángel Lotina, Madrid turned in a miserable performance, with two men and virtually the entire bench sent off late in the game.

Madrid set up with three defensive midfielders - Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Lass - screening the back four, with Khedira apparently given the most license to come forward into attack behind Benzema, Ronaldo and Özil.

Villarreal started well, pressing aggressively and preventing Madrid from enjoying long spells of possession. Their offensive play, aside from a few nervy instances where Casillas had to make a save after a ball was played in behind the defensive line, did not materialize, and most of the chances in the opening 45 minutes came from set pieces, which neither team defended well. Lass picked up a booking after just five minutes, which clearly unnerved Mourinho, who did not trust him not to get himself sent off after a few more rash challenges, leading the Portuguese coach to hook the France midfielder for Callejón after just 30 minutes of play. This was to be the first event in a comedy of errors for Real Madrid at El Madrigál.

Immediately thereafter, Villarreal had a strong penalty shot turned down after video replays clearly showed Arbeloa pulling the shirt of a Villarreal player at a corner, preventing him from getting to the ball. Just a few minutes later, at another set piece, Pepe headed straight at Diego López, wasting an easy opportunity to put his side in front and settle the game.

At the break, Madrid had to use up another precious substitution, taking off Callejón as a preventative measure after he suffered a nasty tackle before half time. This appeared a perplexing decision as for the rest of the game he stood in the opening of the tunnel, smiling and joking with the technical staff and watching the game, instead of icing his ankle or resting as he would if he were protecting a nascent injury.

Regardless, Madrid had the better of most of the second half, Villarreal seeming to have exhausted themselves with their relentless pressure and running in the first 45 minutes. After the restart, los blancos continued to appear nervy, and this nervousness transmitted itself to the bench, where Rui Faria, Mourinho's right hand man, was sent off to the tunnel after apparently saying something to the fourth official.

As Villarreal continued to tire, they made two changes, putting Jonathan de Gúzman and Javi Camuñas on for Cani and Marco Ruben, perhaps in an effort to avoid a sending-off, as the home side had been riding their luck with overeager challenges and picked up a number of yellow cards. In the confusion following the stoppage, however, Ronaldo played a one-two with Özil, the German slotting an exquisite backheel into the path of the Portuguese star, who rounded the keeper and put the ball into the net to make it 1-0 for the away side with half an hour left on the clock. Real began to pin Villarreal back in their own half and string together possession.

However, a horrendous decision by the referee to award a free kick on the edge of the box for a perfectly legal challenge that clearly got the ball changed the game (although after Villarreal had a penalty turned down, Real Madrid can hardly complain). From almost exactly the same position as Cazorla's goal for Málaga, Marcos Senna slammed a free kick around the wall and into the far bottom corner of the net. Complaining about the decision, Mourinho was shown a red card and headed down the tunnel. Eager to join him, in the restart of play after the goal, Sergio Ramos managed to earn himself a second yellow card for a wild jump and a suggestion of an elbow on Nilmar. Özil was then shown a straight red for dissent.

This shocking display of ill-discipline almost certainly cost Madrid two precious points, as they had looked extremely likely to score prior to and after the goal. Indeed, the remaining nine men salvaged some honor for los blancos with a courageous performance at two men down, during which they pegged Villarreal back in their own half, stringing together passes and almost creating a winner despite the abject circumstances which the childish actions of their teammates had created for them. One has to imagine that as Real Madrid head into their weekend game against Sociedad, no mean opponent, now absolutely requiring all three points to maintain their lead over a resurgent Barcelona who could very well drop no more points in the remaining games, losing Sergio Ramos, Özil and Mourinho to suspension is something of a blow.

Madrid's horrendous run of form continues, and now it seems as though the luck the team has been riding through tough times against Rayo Vallecano, Betis, Mallorca and others has run out. Mourinho needs to do something, and soon, if he is to staunch the bleeding.

Madrid had the better of the chances, perhaps, with a superb header from an apparently offsides position from Pepe kept out by a goal-line clearance from Zapata.

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