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Immediate Reaction: Villarreal 2-3 Real Madrid

i Remontada !

Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images

Real Madrid comeback from two goals to earn a massive three points at the Madrigal. Here are some quick notes.

The Setup

It almost seemed surreal, but Real Madrid rolled out their ‘Once de Gala’ tonight at the Madrigal. The BBC was back, and they were backed by a (subjectively) ideal midfield trio of Casemiro, Kroos, and Modric. While the lineup had sex appeal, it lacked tactical astuteness. Zidane’s men were swarmed coming out of their backline, while Escriba’s scheme suffocated them with a high-press. It was soon apparent that as nice as the lineup looked on paper, Real Madrid were struggling to find outlets and keep possession, and Casemiro in particular was not the ideal player to help Real Madrid play the ball out.

Defensively, Real Madrid played a contrasting blueprint. They had little interest pressing high, and were content hedging off the backline and playing the passing lanes. In theory, that’s fine — but tonight’s opponent required a different kind of methodical approach. Villarreal rank in the bottom half in La Liga’s possession rankings, and given their recent woes offensively, depriving them of the ball and playing the counter-press seemed more logical.

It all proved to be true. Castellejo was giving Marcelo and Ramos all kinds of problems on the wing; and Villarreal eventually punished Real Madrid by scoring two goals in the second half — Casemiro and Ramos failing to close Trigueros in time for the first; and Bruno Soriano slicing Madrid’s defense with a through-ball to Bukambu for the second.

The turning point

Real Madrid were down 2-0 and nothing was working. So how did they end up winning this game? Something had to be done, and Zidane shuffled his tactics and implemented what he should have from the start. Around the hour mark, Real Madrid started pressing high. On their first attempt, Villarreal gave the ball away, and as the game wore on and this continued, Escriba’s men looked visibly unnerved. Simultaneously, the dissective Isco came on for Casemiro. Isco Immediately picked up the ball and started creating spaces in impossible situations. It was he who slung the ball out-wide and picked up the hockey assist for Real Madrid’s goal (God bless Carvajal’s impressive crossing skills and Bale’s athletic ability).

From there, momentum swung, and Real Madrid attacked relentlessly in search of an equalizer. It eventually came in the form of a penalty -- a really harsh handball on Bruno Soriano — which Ronaldo converted. To cap the comeback, substitute Morata scored Real Madrid’s third goal in the 83rd.

As always, this is just the reaction (the bare bones). We’re about to break this down thoroughly on our podcast and match review — stay tuned.

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