Real Madrid returned to winning ways on Sunday afternoon, when they defeated Javier Calleja’s Villarreal side 3-2, courtesy of a Mariano Diaz double.

Coming into the game with no victories in their previous two matches, Zinedine Zidane’s men had their task cut out and they began on a fine note, as Mariano Diaz, starting in the absence of Karim Benzema, found the back of the net just two minutes in, capitalising on a mistake from Santi Cazorla.

Villarreal leveled things up in the 11th minute through Gerard Moreno after some neat work by Pablo Fornals. Real Madrid almost managed to take back the lead soon after, but Dani Carvajal’s effort bounced back off the woodwork, while Brahim Diaz and Toni Kroos were denied by the opposition keeper.

At the other end, Thibaut Courtois did well to save an effort from Samuel Chukwueze, before Real finally managed to take the lead again, as Jesus Vallejo pounced on a rebound, after Marcelo’s initial effort had been saved. Four minutes after the break, Los Blancos were 3-1 up with Mariano applying the finishing touches to Carvajal’s cross.

Real Madrid pressed ahead in search of a fourth, but Andres Fernandez stood tall to deny Brahim Diaz and Marcelo again, while the former missed narrowly with a sublime effort. Villarreal too had a couple of chances, but Mario Gaspar missed his header, while Moreno’s effort was saved by Courtois. They finally did breach the Madrid goal again through Jaume Costa, but it was too little too late.

The win puts Real Madrid within six points of second-placed Atletico Madrid, with two games left to be played this term. And here’s how we rated the Merengues’ stars in the victory at the Bernabeu.

Thibaut Courtois: 7/10

There was very little that the Belgian international could have done for both of Villarreal’s goals. Made a fine stop to deny Chukwueze in the first period and reacted well to keep Moreno out in the second half. Showed good command in his box.

Dani Carvajal: 7.5/10

A game where the Spanish international dominated on the right-side. Was a force to be reckoned with each time he embarked on his forward forays, sending in some dangerous balls into the box, one of which led to Mariano’s second goal. Could have had a goal himself with a 20-yard curling effort in the first half, but it bounced off the post.

Raphael Varane: 7/10

The Frenchman was not at fault for either of Villarreal’s goals on the day. Did quite well to keep the visitors’ attackers at bay for large parts of the game, with his positioning and ability to read danger being a highlight. Solid and reliable.

Jesus Vallejo: 7/10

Vallejo scored his first goal for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Vallejo scored his first goal for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Justified his selection over Nacho with an assured display at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. Strong in the air, solid on the ground and confident with the ball at his feet, Vallejo also marked the occasion with his first goal for the club in the first half.

Marcelo: 7.5/10

Easily one of his better displays of the 2018-19 campaign, as the Brazilian seemed to have turned back the clock. Was a constant outlet down the left-hand side with his marauding runs forward and was a constant threat to the opposition. Could have scored a couple of goals himself if not for the Villarreal keeper, but was important for Madrid’s second. Captain on the day, Marcelo led by example.

Federico Valverde: 7.5/10

Valverde impressed again (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Valverde impressed again (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

The Uruguayan youngster is making the most of the opportunities coming his way towards the end of the season. Playing a little higher up the pitch than he has done in the past few games, Valverde combined very well with Carvajal in the right channel, with his through ball to release the Spaniard in the lead-up to the third goal a perfect example of his vision and creativity.

Made some sharp interceptions as well before being subbed off for Isco.

Casemiro: 6/10

Had the ball stolen off his feet by Cazorla in the build-up to Moreno’s goal in the first half. Apart from that one blip, Casemiro performed his screening duties well in the middle of the park and was often at hand to help Marcelo out against the dangerous Chukwueze.

Toni Kroos: 7/10

A much-improved display from the German international who has struggled for most of the ongoing season. Showed good energy and aggression on the field as he went into challenges strongly and looked to dictate play when in possession. Made good runs forward and had a couple of shots at goal that were saved by Fernandez.

Lucas Vazquez: 5/10

A quiet outing for the Spanish winger, who never really got into the game on the day. Did not always make the best decisions when on the ball, while his passes didn’t always find the intended targets. Subbed off for Marco Asensio in the second half.

Mariano Diaz: 8/10

Mariano on the double (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Mariano on the double (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Handed another opportunity in the starting lineup with Benzema still not fit, Mariano made the most of it. Did well to hold off the Villarreal defenders before slotting home the opening goal and then doubled his tally after the break with a simple finish. Worked hard off the ball, showed good movement and hold-up play.

Brahim Diaz: 8/10

Played a key role for Real Madrid’s opening goal, robbing Cazorla off possession in the build-up and caused the Villarreal defence all sorts of problems with his skills and movement in the final third and the willingness to take on defenders. Came close to scoring on a number of occasions, but was denied by Fernandez twice, while he narrowly missed on another occasion. Really bright prospect.

Brahim was a livewire on the pitch (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Brahim was a livewire on the pitch (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)


Isco: 6/10

Thrown on in place of Valverde in the 62nd minute. Added creativity and showed some neat touches.

Marco Asensio: 5/10

Replaced Vazquez a little after the hour mark. Could not do much in the attacking sense, but helped his team out defensively.

Vinicius Junior: 6.5/10

Came on for Brahim for the final fifteen minutes to mark his return from injury. Looked lively and sharp in what was his first appearance in over two months, causing problems with his pace.

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