Karim Benzema scored from the spot to cancel out Yéremy Pino’s early second half goal, but Gerard Moreno was just as composed from 12 yards to beat Thibaut Courtois and make it 2-1 to the home side.
Here are three stats that help to understand the game and the result.
0: The first time EVER that Real Madrid have fielded a line-up without Spanish players
After 121 years and 4,436 matches, Real Madrid have fielded a line-up without a Spaniard in the team. It was a historic first for the club which should give real value to the fact that it has never happened before.
Injuries to Dani Ceballos and Dani Carvajal ruled them out, while Marco Asensio, Nacho and Jesús Vallejo were among those to be overlooked. In the end, Lucas Vázquez was the first Spanish man that Real Madrid turned to from them bench on 62 minutes.
With Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti calling the shots, Vázquez and late entrant Asensio were the sole representatives of their country. Given the result, the critics are likely to turn to this statistic with anger. In reality, it reflects a squad devoid of Spanish talent and characters to lead.
The only Spanish player to be an undisputed starter currently is Carvajal, who continues to struggle with his fitness, and such a feat was always inevitable coming not long after Luis Enrique only included two Spaniards in his World Cup squad for Qatar with the right-back and Asensio.
26th February 2017: The last time Real Madrid won at Estadio de la Cerámica
Villarreal’s stadium is a notoriously difficult place to go, as was proven by the fact that Real Madrid have won only two of their visits over the past decade. Los Blancos have taken more victories at Barcelona’s Camp Nou or Atlético Madrid’s Estadio Vicente Calderón and Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano over the same period.
It’s true that the Yellow Submarine only emerged victorious once in that spell before Saturday, with a 1-0 win thanks to La Fábrica product Roberto Soldado’s goal in 2015, but the last five Real Madrid visits before that had all ended in draws.
The last time Real Madrid won in Villa-real was in February 2017, when Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Álvaro Morata were on the scoresheet in a 3-2 win having been 2-0 down on the hour mark. The only players to repeat in the line-up on Saturday and on that occasion were Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić.
This defeat is a painful blow, but this poor run shows that picking up three points at the Estadio de la Cerámica is not essential to a LaLiga title run. With Barcelona set to play Atlético on Sunday night in a tricky away trip of their own, Real Madrid may not even end the weekend in a worse position than they started it.
The positive, if there is one, is that Saturday morning provided a Copa del Rey draw which gives Real Madrid another trip to Villa-real in the last 16 in just over a fortnight. That means there’s a chance for almost immediate revenge.
7: Fouls on Vinícius Júnior
This was far from Vinícius Júnior’s best game but it is no coincidence that Real Madrid’s two LaLiga defeats have been the two games in which he has received the most fouls. As was the case against Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal fouled Vini seven times.
That figure is vastly superior to Vini’s average of 2.92 fouls won per 90, which is the sixth highest figure in the competition. Such physical battles tend to frustrate the Brazilian and Juan Foyth got the better of him on this occasion.
The pair have come face to face and had some intense battles in recent history, who suffered nine fouls against Villarreal over two games last season as well.
Foyth has pocketed Vini tonight.— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) January 7, 2023
Foyth continually denied him and only one of three attempted dribbles on Saturday afternoon was successful. In total, he lost possession 19 times, compared to a season average of 16.5.
In front of goal, he looked off the pace too. He’s now up to 0.95 xG and eight shots over the last four games without scoring. It has been fortunate for Ancelotti and co. that Benzema has returned to form, but even so, that four game run now includes two defeats on the road. Getting Vinícius back to his best is crucial for Real Madrid’s hopes for the rest of the season.