Real Madrid 3-0 Villarreal: as it happened
Goals from Karim Benzema, Lucas Vázquez and Luka Modric saw Real sweep Villarreal aside and stay one point behind Barça and Atlético.
Real Madrid comfortably saw off Villarreal in LaLiga on Wednesday night as strikes from Karim Benzema, Lucas Vázquez and Luka Modric saw Zinedine Zidane's men keep up the pressure on title rivals Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.
Benzema put Los Blancos ahead late on in the first half, nodding in from close range after Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo had palmed Cristiano Ronaldo's low cross into his path.
And with Madrid producing a high-intensity, up-tempo performance at the Bernabéu, Vázquez exchanged passes with Benzema to fire past Asenjo and double the hosts' advantage midway through the second 45.
Modric then expertly buried Danilo's right-wing ball into the box to round off the scoring.
The only real negative note of the evening for Los Merengues saw Cristiano limp off in the match's closing stages.
Real remain one point behind Barça and Atlético after the top two both also won on the night, the leaders thrashing Deportivo La Coruña 8-0 and Los Rojiblancos coming away from Athletic Club with a 1-0 triumph.
Here's how it happened:
Peeeeeeeeep! All over at the Bernabéu as Real Madrid maintain the pressure on Barcelona and Atlético Madrid at the head of the table, producing a display of real energy and tempo to keep themselves just one point behind the top two. Luka Modric and Lucas Vázquez's fine strikes after the break added to Karim Benzema's first-half opener, and wrapped up a comprehensive victory over a Villarreal side who were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession (although the hosts are also due some credit on that score for the intensity they showed in their work to win the ball back). The black mark on the night for Zinedine Zidane looks to have come in the dying moments of the affair, when Cristiano Ronaldo was forced off with what appeared an injury concern. Hope you enjoyed reading. Bye!
Min 90 | Real are down to ten men as Cristiano sneaks off the field and heads down the tunnel - he doesn't appear to let the man in the middle know... We'll have to see if the Portuguese has some sort of issue. He may have hurt himself when colliding with Bailly in attempting an overhead kick shortly beforehand. All that's clear is that he was grimacing as he went off.
Min 88 | Jesé races towards goal and cuts back across the area, but it finds a yellow shirt. The smart money would have been on it being 4-0 had the ball located one of his fellow Los Blancos.
Min 87 | Cristiano plays it back to Marcelo on the corner of the box, the Brazilian crosses to the back stick and Benzema launches himself at the header. He fails to connect, appearing only to foul Bonera in his efforts to get on the end of the delivery. No foul given, though.
Min 86 | Casemiro sees yellow after a heavy challenge on sub Rodri. He has that first-half case of mistaken identity to thank for it not being his second, of course. The Brazilian will miss Real's next game due to accumulated yellow cards. From the resulting free-kick, Suárez pops a firmly-hit strike straight down Navas' gullet.
Min 83 | Final change for Real Madrid: off comes Vázquez, also to merited applause. Jesé Rodríguez is on in his stead.
Min 81 | Chants of "Cómo no te voy a querer?" ("How could I not love you?") amongst a very satisfied home support.
Min 79 | Goalscorer Modric is withdrawn to deserved applause, and on trots James Rodríguez.
Min 77 | Gooooal! Number three for the hosts! Benzema turns expertly and feeds Danilo bursting forward on the right. His cross finds Modric arriving in the box, and the midfielder connects first time to fire low past Asenjo. Another very good goal.
Min 75 | Replays show Cristiano having his shirt tugged - and ripped - in the area.
Min 75 | How did that stay out? Marcelo crosses low across the six-yard box, all it needs is a white shirt to tap it in... But it stays out! Isco then has a sight of goal inside the area, but his effort hits Ramos in an offside position.
Min 72 | First change for Real Madrid as Kroos comes off for Isco. Villarreal also make a substitution, Trigueros replaced by Rodri.
Min 69 | Could have been three from Cristiano there! He takes on Bailly on the left, bursts past the defender and creates space to shoot, aiming his attempt across Asenjo's goal... But in the end he finds the corner flag.
Min 68 | Goooooal for Lucas Vázquez! 2-0 to Real Madrid! The younsgter exchanges passes with Benzema, bursts at the defence between Bruno and Bonera, and beats Asenjo. Lovely goal, with the caveat that Asenjo probably shouldn't be being beaten at his near post.
Min 65 | Danilo stays alive to prevent Suárez from shooting for Villarreal as the 22-year-old advances at pace into the area.
Min 64 | Marcelino makes a second substitution, Leo Baptistao replacing Adrián.
Min 62 | Villarreal are really suffering here. The visitors clear two crosses and block a Kroos shot, before Vázquez gets to the byline inside the box, with Cristiano waiting for a pull-back which, had it reached him, he would have surely turned into the net - but it's blocked. The guests make a change as Dos Santos makes way for Samu García.
Min 59 | "Real have been much the better side, but with the scoreline as it is Villarreal are still in this," warns Spanish TV commentator Maldini.
Min 58 | There's a dangerous moment in the Real area, as Dos Santos flights a cross towards the far post, where Bakambu is lurking. But Varane stays alert to get there first and volley clear at the back stick.
Min 56 | Kroos feeds Cristiano, and the Portuguese ace gets it out of his feet, looks up and shoots towards goal. But again he's off the mark with his shot. CR7 is then claiming a penalty after Bonera goes sliding in to clear in the box. But, like Modric in the first half, his shouts fall on deaf ears.
Min 54 | Danilo is in on the right, but his cut-back can't find Benzema waiting on the penalty spot. Villarreal have a chance to attack, but again the pass doesn't locate its intended target and Ramos deals with it.
Min 52 | Madrid are maintaining a real good tempo. Villarreal prevent Benzema from getting his head on a dangerous cross from the right. Cristiano then cuts onto his left to fire at goal, but the sting is taken out of it by a yellow leg and it loops into Asenjo's arms.
Min 50 | Ufff! Again the shooting chance falls to Modric after the ball is worked to the Croat outside the area - but his attempt to guide a curling effort into the right-hand corner is just wide, with Asenjo scrambling towards his corner.
Min 48 | First opening of the half for the hosts as Modric latches on to the ball outside of the box and slaps in a shot with his left, but it's deflected wide for a corner, which Cristiano heads well over at the near post.
Min 46 | "It's been one of Real Madrid's best team displays of the season," declares commentator Michael Robinson as the second period witnesses its early exchanges.
Welcome back! The second half gets underway in Madrid! No changes on either side.
Peeep! Half time. As it stands, it's as you were at the top of LaLiga. Villarreal - who, it should not be forgetten, beat Real in the sides' first league meeting of the season - came into this game having never won at the Bernabéu and, let's be honest, look nowhere near troubling that statistic. Real have shown huge intensity throughout the first 45, harrying and snapping at their visitors to reclaim the ball time and again and dominate possession. Karim Benzema's late opener - the 11th time the Frenchman has got the game's first goal in LaLiga this term - is no more than Los Blancos deserve.
Min 45 | Danilo goes into the book... for a foul committed by Casemiro. The right-back cannot catch a break here. Somewhere in UK, Andre Marriner feels a shiver go down his spine.
Min 43 | Keylooooor! Adrián slips in Suárez running into the box in the right channel, and the youngster thunders a shot towards Navas' goal, but the Costa Rican is equal to it. Had Suárez looked up, Bakambu was free - and the striker is understandably doing his nut.
Min 41 | Goooooal! Cristiano runs at Mario and crosses low towards goal, where Asenjo can only palm it out as far as the arriving Benzema, who heads the loose ball in to snaffle his 23rd LaLiga goal of the season. To say the opener is merited would be an understatement.
Min 39 | Cristiano gets it out of his feet and fires at goal, but his shot is the very definition of high, wide and handsome.
Min 38 | Cristiano bamboozles his man on the left and crosses from the byline, but Bonera heads clear, before Real win it back in the blink of an eye yet again. I can't see Marcelino from here, but the chances are he's having kittens on the touchline.
Min 36 | Villarreal are sloppy in possession once more and Vázquez charges at the away defence dangerously - but before he can pull the trigger he's crowded out.
Min 35 | The final whistle goes up in Bilbao, where Atlético Madrid have earned a commendable 1-0 win over Athletic. Confirmation, then, that for tonight Real's task is to keep up the pressure and maintain their deficit of one point behind Barça and Atleti.
Min 33 | Vázquez shoots over from the edge of the box. It's all Real here. With the exception of a certain Brazilian on the right flank, they look full of confidence.
Min 29 | A lovely cross from Modric towards Cristiano in the six-yard box is cut out by Bailly - it looks for all the world like CR7 is going to turn it into that far corner - before the Croat is right back in the thick of the build-up play to find Danilo advancing into the area on the right, but his thumped ball to the near post canons off Benzema and out for a goal-kick. The Spanish commentary team purr suitably over Modric's midfield mastery.
Min 26 | Villarreal - a side usually so adept in possession - just can't keep hold of the ball here. Danilo then ricks up on the right, and earns the inevitable jeers.
Min 23 | Madrid continue to win it back within two shakes of a lamb's tail, but real clear-cut chances have been notable by their absence, perhaps excepting Cristiano's earlier effort.
Min 21 | Free-kick in Cristiano territory, but it's deflected away off the wall. Kroos' corner is then headed off target by Raphael Varane. The ball is increasingly setting up home in the visitors' half...
Min 18 | Real Madrid have come out in really intense mood tonight - and that attitude is typified by Marcelo as the Brazilian hurls himself at Modric's overhit pass to juuust keep it in by the corner flag. He had no right to save that one from going out.
Min 15 | Real Madrid are pressing high and winning it back quickly here, much to the approval of the Bernabéu congregation. Twice Lucas Vázquez has inviting chances to cross from the right, but twice the academy graduate's delivery isn't quite on the money.
Min 13 | Kroos breaks and looks to feed it through to Karim Benzema running into the 18-yard area, but can't find the Frenchman.
Min 11 | First clear sight of goal for Real! Marcelo feeds Cristiano running into the box in the left channel, and his first-time shot is beaten out by Sergio Asenjo.
Min 8 | Danilo has given it away a couple of times, and the first whistles can be heard...
Min 7 | Mario brings down Cristiano Ronaldo on the left and it's a threatening free-kick for Kroos to swing in, but Rukavina clears. Marcelo's follow-up centre is dealt with too - and then Luka Modric is calling for a penalty after tumbling under the attentions of Trigueros. Nothing doing...
Min 5 | Danilo is robbed and Villarreal break dangerously, but Real Madrid get back behind the ball swiftly to snuff out the immediate danger, before Denis Suárez then cuts inside on the left and gets a shot away that is blocked by Casemiro. That moment from Danilo will have done very little for his popularity among the Bernabéu faithful, one suspects...
Min 4 | It's a confident start by Villarreal, who are knocking it about with aplomb so far. Jonathan Dos Santos has a chance to find Mario running in dangerously on the right but it's blocked, before Real Madrid break only to see Toni Kroos' cross cut out.
Peeeep! We are underway at the Bernabéu.
2 mins to kick-off | Ice-skating world champ Javier Fernández takes to the field and exchanges a lovely embrace with Sergio Ramos before taking the honorary kick-off. The players then come together around the centre circle to observe a minute's silence for the victims of the recent earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.
3 mins to kick-off | The teams are out at the Bernabéu! It is utterly bucketing down in the Spanish capital.
4 mins to kick-off | Evening all! With Barça walloping Deportivo and Atlético currently leading Athletic Club, any wild notions Real Madrid might have had of ending the evening at the top of the pile look now to be reduced to the aim of keeping up the pressure on their title rivals by maintaining the one-point gap separating them from the leading pair. Champions League-chasing Villarreal, meanwhile, are out to get back to winning aways after losing to Rayo Vallecano last time out in the league.
The teams are out!
Real Madrid XI: Keylor Navas; Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kross; Lucas Vázquez, Benzema, Cristiano.
Villarreal XI: Asenjo; Mario, Bonera, Bailly, Rukavina; Jonathan, Bruno, Trigueros, Denis Suárez; Bakambu, Adrián.
When Gerard Piqué broke the deadlock in el Clásico at the beginning of the month Real Madrid were trailing Barcelona by 13 points. Now, little over two weeks later, los blancos have a chance to pull themselves ahead of their archrivals to the top of the league table.
A win against fourth-placed Villarreal would be a real statement of intent from a Madrid side that, inspired by their two incredible comebacks against los azulgranas and Wolfsburg, are eager to put serious pressure on Barça and Atlético, who also play tonight.
However, Marcelino's men are anything but a pushover as they showed earlier in the season when they subjected Rafa Benítez's team to a 1-0 defeat at El Madrigal. The Castellón outfit left the Spanish capital without any points over the weekend when they were beaten 2-1 at Vallecas by Rayo and will be keen to bounce back with a positive result at the Bernabéu as they look to shore up the last Champions League spot before the season's end.
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