Real Madrid produced a stirring comeback to beat Villarreal 2-1 on Saturday afternoon, but had to watch rivals Atletico Madrid claim their La Liga crown, following los Rojiblancos’ victory over Real Valladolid.
Los Blancos’ plans to shift Atleti from the summit took a hit on 20 minutes, when Villarreal pulled the Madrid backline apart, and Yeremi Pino was on hand to tap home past a scrambling Thibaut Courtois.
Zinedine Zidane’s men were rocked by this, and had to endure several waves of pressure from their visitors.
Madrid started the second half brightly, and drew level on 55 minutes, when Karim Benzema headed home Casemiro’s delicately floated cross. VAR was called into action however, and after a lengthy delay, the Frenchman was deemed to be offside, leaving Zidane exasperated on the touchline.
Los Merengues turned the game on its head in the final 10 minutes however, with Benzema and Modric both finding the net superbly to give them some hope of the most unthinkable of title swings.
But in the end, it wasn’t enough, and they had to accept defeat in their title defence at the hands of bitter rivals Atleti.
Let’s have a look at the player ratings.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 6/10 – Didn’t cover himself in glory for the early strike, but was left exposed by his teammates.
Alvaro Odriozola (RB) – 7/10 – Allowed himself to be distracted by Carlos Bacca, and missed Pino’s run in behind him. Absolutely blistering recovery speed allowed him to get back into position on several occasions after that however.
Eder Militao (CB) – 5/10 – All over the place for the Villarreal strike, and wasn’t strong enough against their intelligent and physical forwards. Not up to standard on the day.
Raphael Varane (CB) – 6/10 – Shaky in the first half, but looked exasperated at how easily the opponents were bursting through their ranks. Didn’t defend the goal well.
Miguel Gutierrez (LB) – 7/10 – The youngster was targeted down that flank, and Villarreal and Pino found plenty of joy. Often had to chase back when the ball had been dropped in behind him. Did tuck in to make a vital tackle in the box during the first half.
Federico Valverde (CM) – 6/10 – Did not do enough to protect his teammates, and held the door open for Villarreal to stream forward. Not his usual snappy self.
Casemiro (CM) – 6/10 – Fell asleep for Pino’s strike, not reading the danger for once and allowing his backline to be attacked. The first half hour really passed him by – miles off the pace. Headed straight at the keeper with the last touch of the first half. Better in the second period.
Luka Modric (CM) – 7/10 – Broke into the box, wiggled and shimmied before shooting wide of the near post. Did come up trumps late on though, hitting the top corner accurately, but it wasn’t to be for the former champions.
Marco Asensio (RW) – 5/10 – Contributed little to the first half, losing possession or taking the safe option, instead of trying the difficult ball to create something. Subbed.
Karim Benzema (ST) – 7/10 – Expected to drop deep, link up and be in the box all at the same time. His attacking teammates just seemed terrified of taking a chance. Headed home expertly, but was fractionally offside. Curled a stunner into the top corner, and kept the dream alive.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – 5/10 – A ghost in the first half. Ran into dead ends whenever he tried to take on his marker. A hinderance rather than a help. Rightly subbed.
Isco (LW) – 7/10
Rodrygo (RW) – 7/10
Mariano Diaz (ST) – 7/10
Nacho Fernandez (CB) – 7/10
Marcelo (LWB) – 8/10