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Immediate Reaction: Villarreal 2 - 2 Real Madrid

A Gareth Bale brace and a jumbled tactical scheme not enough for Real Madrid as they drop two points again

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

Villarreal draw Real Madrid 2 - 2 (Gomez, Moreno; Bale x2). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

In an end-to-end, chaotic game, where neither team defended particularly well, Real Madrid dropped two points at the Ceramica.

This was a vintage Zidane game — a gung-ho crossing scheme with players flooding the box and leaving the team vulnerable in transition. Casemiro, playing as a pseudo-10, made bombing runs into the area to arrive as a goalscoring threat — similar to the way Barcelona used Paulinho in the 2017 - 2018 season. With Casemiro playing in an advanced role, Jovic and Benzema in the box, overloads from Mendy and Carvajal, and Bale and Vazquez either on the flanks or in the half-spaces, Real Madrid had little-to-no coverage defensively.

Kroos was generally the the only midfielder to be in a position to recover on Villarreal counters, which allowed Javier Calleja’s men to slice through into dangerous positions with just a single pass, or sometimes a simple sequence where a ball-carrier brings the ball all the way to Real Madrid’s last line of defense.

Villarreal, who also allowed Real Madrid a ton of space to carve out passes to unmarked players all night, did not punish Zidane’s men for the wonky positioning. Their passing towards unmarked players in the half-spaces weren’t precise enough, and the two goals they scored were down to Real Madrid’s individual mistakes, rather than issues defending counter attacks. Villarreal’s first goal stemmed from a Sergio Ramos giveaway; and their second goal was a result of Casemiro failing to pick up Gerard Moreno at the top of the box:

Real Madrid did create chances offensively though — they just weren’t surgical enough in the final third, nor did they carve out enough clear-cut opportunities. Having Jovic, Benzema, and Casemiro meeting crosses made them more dangerous with their in-swinging balls into the box, but the chaos only resulted in so much, given that crossing is one of the least-statistically probable paths to goal.

Just before half-time, a beautiful sequence of passes and movement from Carvajal, Casemiro, and Jovic created Bale’s first goal. It was nearly identical to Bale’s first ever goal for Real Madrid, which happened in the same stadium, in nearly the same way. In the second half, Bale scored the equalizer:

There is a lot to break down in this game that I haven’t had a chance to do here — but will do so on the post-game podcast which will go up fairly early tonight. This was a tough ‘immediate reaction’ to write, as there was so much going on. Both teams were loose defensively and were attacking each other without much break. It was hard to pry the eyes away from the field. We’ll break this down more in the coming hours.

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