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Immediate Reaction: Villarreal 2 - 2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid put up a dud in the second half, symbolically ending their league campaign the same way they started it.

Villarreal v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Villarreal draw Real Madrid 2-2 (Martinez, Castillejo; Bale, Ronaldo) at the Ceramica after coming back from a two-goal deficit. Real Madrid played really good football in the first half but became complacent in the second half where Villarreal turned it up a gear. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

The last warm-up match before the most important game of the season has passed. La Liga (a woeful campaign, to be sure) has concluded, and tonight at Estadio de la Cerámica, Zidane gave us what was perhaps a glimpse (in his completely indecipherable mind) of the starting line-up in Kiev, bar Luca Zidane who started over a resting Keylor Navas.

Bullet points from Kiyan’s notebook

  • I enjoyed the starting line-up tonight, and hopeful it might be one Zidane continues with against Liverpool. A scheme with Isco and Gareth Bale together was always possible, as I’ve written about before, and the limited sample size they’ve played together has generally been good. Both players were good today (mostly in the first half, as I’ll elaborate on below), and both were interchangeable on the flanks while roaming with more defined roles than a typical diamond.
  • Very clearly, there was a sharp contrast between Real Madrid’s performance in the first half, and their display in the second. In the first, the spacing offensively provided a lot of width and great passing. There were outlets and targets everywhere, and Real Madrid knocked it around well. Pretty well everyone in the opening frame played well, with special daps to Marcelo creating constant danger from the left, Isco slinging nice passes from right and central channels, and Gareth Bale who scored a beautiful opening goal — among others who preformed well. There was a complacency that kicked in in the second half. Perhaps understandably (with the mind looking ahead to the Champions League final, naturally, after a comfortable first half and two-goal cushion), Real Madrid started switching off, became lazy with their passing, and were horrendous defensively. Luka Modric had a rough game, committing some bad passes while being uncharacteristically careless with the ball.
  • This wasn’t the worst test before Liverpool, given Villarreal like to press high and counter. Their press isn’t as efficient as Klopp’s, but this was just a general observation about the schedule.
  • The defending throughout the second half, particularly on the goals conceded, was sloppy and lackadaisical. Before Roger Martinez scored a beautiful goal far post, Villarreal got themselves into the final third without confrontation. On Samu Castillejo’s equalizer, Real Madrid’s defensive line was all over the place. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane stepped up off of Samu, and Marcelo was late to react, keeping the Spanish winger onside.
  • Bale’s goal was brilliant, even if he was relatively quiet throughout the rest of the match. He did have a genius touch to break on the counter in the second half — on a play where the Welshman was eventually called offside.
  • Varane didn’t have many notable defensive actions, but his passing out of the back, particularly his long range flings to get the team out of the back in the first half, were impressive.
  • Casemiro and Kroos continue their strong run of form heading into the final. Kroos, in particular, had some nice interventions defensively and was key in transitioning the attack.
  • Villarreal had some really nice attacking sequences, especially in the second half (but even in the first where Real Madrid were the better team). I enjoyed Rodri (tonight, and all season, really). Pablo Fornals is going to be a really good player, more-so than he already is. Alvaro Gonzalez reads the game well and his distribution is really sound.
  • Some of Marcelo’s touches are outrageous. See: his outside-of-the-boot cross on Ronaldo’s goal, and pretty well every first touch he takes in training and matches.
  • Some house-keeping things: Podcast will be released tomorrow, on Monday I’ll be releasing a ‘Can Klopp prevent the three-peat?’ article on FourFourTwo, on Tuesday I’ll release ‘The mother of all Champions League final previews’ for Managing Madrid, and on Wednesday, I’ll have The Anfield Wrap on the podcast for a preview show.
  • Enjoy your weekend, and don’t get too discouraged about the second half gong-show.

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