MADRID – Real Madrid’s struggles continued on Saturday in a 1-0 home loss Saturday to Villarreal, a defeat that extended the Blancos’ winless stretch in the Spanish league to three games.
The Madrid squad, which paid dearly for squandering its scoring chances in a one-sided first half, suffered its fourth La Liga defeat this season.
The loss comes just days after Real Madrid had to settle for a 2-2 draw against second-tier Numancia in the second leg of the Copa del Rey round of 16 (The Blancos still won that clash 5-2 on aggregate).
Real Madrid currently holds the fourth spot in La Liga with 32 points, 16 behind league-leading FC Barcelona, which is scheduled to take on Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Villarreal, which on Saturday earned its first-ever win at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, tried to deny Real Madrid’s players the space they needed in attack and did so to perfection over the first 20 minutes.
But Marcelo kicked off a series of scoring opportunities for the home side with a long blast saved by Villarreal’s stellar goalkeeper, Sergio Asenjo.
Asenjo denied Real Madrid another goal when he got a hand on a free kick by Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the 23rd minute.
Ronaldo then had more opportunities in the first half, but he failed to get the better of Asenjo in a one-on-one situation and then fired a shot that struck the outside of the net.
The visitors’ coach, Javi Calleja, brought in Denis Cheryshev of Russia in the second half in a bid to give his side’s attack more speed.
Cheryshev had an excellent scoring chance shortly after taking the field against his former club, but he was unable to find the back of the net.
Toni Kroos reacted for Real Madrid, firing a volley that Asenjo saved.
With 20 minutes to go, Real Madrid’s head coach, Zinedine Zidane, substituted Lucas Vazquez in place of Gareth Bale, who had scored an apparent goal that was annulled for offside, and Marco Asensio for Isco.
These changes failed to spark the Blancos, who failed to mount any more substantial threats against Villarreal’s goal.
Two minutes before the second-half stoppage time, Villarreal executed a perfect counter-attack from their area.
Enes Unal of Turkey took possession of the ball inside Real Madrid’s area and tried to put it home, but he was denied by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The deflected ball reached Pablo Fornals, who found the back of the net to give Villarreal a historic win.
With the win, Villarreal has moved up to fifth place in La Liga, just one point behind Real Madrid, although the Blancos have a game in hand.