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Immediate Reaction: Villarreal 0 - 0 Real Madrid

A stalemate where both teams missed chances

Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

In a tale of two halves, Real Madrid improved their performance dramatically from the first half to the next, and after surviving a torturous opening frame, grew into the game after Carlo Ancelotti’s half-time team talk and made it into a better contest in the second.

Of course, Ancelotti — already without Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema — was playing without key players. He also opted to start Fede Valverde over Luka Modric. Marcelo started at left-back, and the surprise start was Gareth Bale, who played as the team’s striker.

The absences were felt. Without Benzema, Vinicius and Kroos had one less person to link-up with and escape Villarreal’s heavy press. Bale was isolated, with just 10 touches in the half. Without Modric, the ball progression suffered greatly, as neither Fede nor Asensio had a productive game on the right side. Without Mendy, well, Marcelo was torched alive over and over again by both Danjuma and Foyth, and a lot was on the shoulders of Eder Militao to make clearances, or for Casemiro or Alaba to make a flying, last second challenge or block.

And that’s more or less how the first half went. Real Madrid sat deep — almost too deep, and Bale was isolated. On just one occasion, a Marcelo ball over the top found Bale behind Villarreal’s high line. The Welshman’s first touch was good, but he had some bad luck with his shot which ultimately bounced off him and went out for a goal-kick.

Real Madrid’s biggest threat was Vinicius. Despite not having much space in the half, and being defended well by Foyth, the Brazilian gave Villarreal headaches with his dribbling, and provoked several challenges.

In the second half, Ancelotti asked his men to play higher up the pitch. That was a huge wrinkle that changed the game without any subs being made. Real Madrid were able to generate better opportunities through an effective counter-press where they forced Villarreal into several giveaways. Kroos in particular was good at picking up the ball quickly and passing it forward to one of the flanks. Bale also got involved more, and was part of several final balls into the box because of this. He had two really good chances from the right side — one hit the bar, and the other he took too long to get it onto his left foot for a tame shot when he should’ve just let it fly with his right.

In the grand scheme of things, a draw was probably fair. Villarreal were the better team in the first half; while Real Madrid were better in the second. And now all eyes on Paris.

Stay tuned for much more coverage coming your way on Managing Madrid: Player ratings, post-game quotes from both managers, and a lot more. The post-game podcast is being recorded live in person in London tomorrow, and will be posted here after it’s done.