Villarreal had never previously won at the Bernabéu, but on this occasion did just that, thanks to a late goal scored on a lightning-quick counter that exploited the loose ball from the umpteenth Real Madrid corner. The finish by Pablo Fornals was magnificent, by the way. The result further deepens the gloom that's been enveloping everyone around the club, including Zinedine Zidane, whose pre-match press conference had shown us a far less pleasant side to him than we've been used to. Yesterday's setback was harder to take than others, because Los Blancos played more or less decently in the first half and were by no means outplayed after the break, either. But nothing they did as a team worked, and no-one could dig out that oft-seen moment of magic to overcome that.
Cristiano Ronaldo's goals used to be the answer...
Real Madrid began to lose ground in LaLiga because Cristiano Ronaldo wasn't there; then, when he returned, because the ball wouldn't go in for him; and finally because the gap separating them from the top caused a palpable air of disillusionment. The ball still won't go in for Cristiano and their predicament is, clearly, only getting worse. Be it a penalty not given by the ref, the heroics of the opposition keeper (where would Sergio Asenjo be now had he not had those four serious injuries, incidentally?), a goal given or not given over a marginal offside, certain people forgetting to track back, leading to trouble in his own area... Before, Cristiano's scoring prowess would offset all that. But right now he can't buy a league goal.
Right now, Real Madrid are in a battle for fourth in LaLiga
What's most surprising is watching a Real Madrid side who have lost that sense of self-assurance that we so associate with them; that conviction that there's no-one to touch them, least of all at the Bernabéu. There's no longer any sign of the kind of furious late onslaught that would leave their opponents quaking in their boots. Nor do the fans, who appear bogged down in the same disillusionment as the team, seem to expect it. Yesterday, the pace of the last five minutes was indistinguishable from any other such period of time during the second half. Tidy enough football, but lacking in verve or inspiration. What will happen when Paris Saint-Germain come to town? Nobody knows. Strangest of all is that holding on to fourth place is becoming a growing cause for concern.