Real Madrid kicked off 2019 on a disappointing note, as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica on Thursday night
The match started in a frantic manner, with Villarreal taking the lead in the fourth minute, courtesy Santi Cazorla, who was found by the sprightly Samuel Chukwueze. But, Real Madrid hit back almost instantly, as Karim Benzema converted from Lucas Vazquez’s delicate ball.
The visitors subsequently took control of the game before they led through Raphael Varane, who headed in from Toni Kroos’ free-kick. Thereafter, Real Madrid continued to dominate the proceedings, although the game clinching goal continued to allude them.
Villarreal though, levelled the scores with less than 10 minutes left in regulation time, as Cazorla doubled his and the hosts’ tally by heading into the net past Thibaut Courtois, producing the fine finish from Pablo Fornals’ searching cross, with the game ending 2-2.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) January 3, 2019
The result could prove to be crucial to Villarreal’s survival hopes, as the Yellow Submarine continued their unbeaten start under Luis Garcia. Real Madrid though, dropped points for the eighth time in La Liga this season, with table toppers Barcelona seven points ahead. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Santiago Solari’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
A mixed bag for Courtois, who made one spectacular save but did not exactly cover himself in glory when Cazorla scored the equaliser for Villarreal late on. Couldn’t have done much to deny the former Arsenal midfielder for the game’s opener. Needs to take better command of the backline, though.
Dani Carvajal: 5/10
It was a game of hits and misses for Carvajal. While the Spanish international played his part in the build-up to Karim Benzema’s goal, he failed to impact the attacking output thereafter. At fault for both the goals that Villarreal scored, showing poor awareness and positioning.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
By far, the best defender for Real Madrid on the night, Varane did well to neutralise whatever threat the hosts created on the night. An imposing figure in both boxes, the Frenchman was dominant in the air and scored a brilliant goal to hand Los Blancos the lead. Not at fault for either goal his side conceded.
Sergio Ramos: 6/10
Ramos had a tough job on his hands on Thursday, with Samuel Chukwueze putting Marcelo under the cosh all through the game. The Real Madrid captain did do well to cover up for his full-back’s deficiencies, but was quite easily beaten when Cazorla scored the equaliser. A costly error that proved to be his side’s undoing.
A game to forget for Marcelo, who had a tough day at work dealing with the pace of Chukwueze, just as we had predicted in our preview. All night, the Brazilian did not have a single moment’s rest, and was directly at fault for the second goal his side conceded as well. Did not do well going forward either, in what was a rare poor outing on all accounts.
Luka Modric: 7.5/10
It has been a difficult season for Modric. But, ever since he was crowned the Ballon d’Or winner, the Croat has been on a burst of positive form. On Thursday, he pulled the strings ever so effortlessly while also popping into scoring areas every now and then. Wasn’t always met with the right finishing touch, but this was a step in the right direction.
Back into the side due to Marcos Llorente’s injury layoff, Casemiro had the chance to stake claim to his rightful place as the holding midfielder. But, his performance on Thursday suggests it might not be that rightful, with the Brazilian being caught out for pace. Poor output on the ball was another drawback of a forgettable return to the starting lineup.
Toni Kroos: 7/10
Like Modric, Kroos was in his elements for large parts of the game, running the show as Real Madrid dominated the proceedings. Set up Varane with a brilliant free-kick that deserved the finish. Tailed off quite a bit as the game wore on and was taken off late on.
Lucas Vazquez: 6/10
Another player who blew hot and cold on Thursday. Vazquez was superb as he set up Benzema for his side’s first goal. But, he squandered three glorious opportunities to find the back of the net, and made some questionable decisions when a simple pass could have set a teammate free.
Karim Benzema: 8/10
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 3, 2019
Benzema has been, by far, the best attacker for Real Madrid this season, and he continued his fine run on Thursday. The Frenchman took his goal well, and linked up play brilliantly, setting up Vazquez for a fine chance. Another solid display.
Gareth Bale: 5/10
The injury troubles are seemingly haunting Bale yet again this season. The Welshman was taken off at half-time due to a calf injury, and was barely a factor before his substitution.
A decent enough performance by Isco, who impressed with his work rate. But, the Spaniard could not make the difference on the creative front and was denied a goal as well. A missed opportunity at a time when his Real Madrid future is up in the air.
Federico Valverde: 6/10
On for Modric, Valverde was a bundle of energy in the middle of the park. But, like Isco, a telling impact was nowhere to be seen as the game ambled towards a draw.
Vinicius Junior: N/A
Had very little time to make an impact.