Villarreal and Real Madrid share the spoils at Cerámica, as Cazorla headed home in the 82nd minute to cancel out Benzema and Varane's early first-half goals.
Villarreal vs Real Madrid: match report
Real Madrid have dropped more points and are now seven behind leaders Barcelona, after they failed to put Villarreal away in the Estadio de la Cerámica, allowing the hosts in to score in the 82nd to level the game at 2-2.
After a shaky few opening minutes during which Villarreal came flying out of the traps, Los Blancos found themselves 1-0 down after four minutes, when Cazorla, on the left, hit a beautiful first-time strike into the bottom right corner from just inside the box.
But the visitors responded quickly, and were level just three minutes later through Benzema, who, unmarked, struck a powerful low header from six yards out that left Villarreal keeper Asenjo with no time to react. His compatriot Varane made it 2-1 soon after in the 19th minute with another header, this time from a free-kick set-piece taken by Kroos.
Madrid controlled the rest of the first half, but were unable to do the same in the second as the momentum swung towards the hosts for the last 35 minutes, following a scrappy 15 minutes after the break.
And Luis Garcia’s side were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 82nd minute, when Cazorla headed home from four yards out to score his second goal of the game and give Villarreal a much-needed point.
El Submarino remain unbeaten in first three games under new coach García, but are yet to win a league game. Madrid, meanwhile, will lament an opportunity missed to close the gap on their title rivals.
Villarreal vs Real Madrid: as it happened
Villarreal vs Real Madrid: match preview
Real Madrid travel to Villarreal this Thursday and will hope to secure their tenth LaLiga win from 17 games this season in order to keep the pressure on the top three.
Fresh from their third consecutive Fifa Club World Cup title in December, Los Blancos currently sit in fourth place – eight points behind leaders Barcelona but with a game in hand. And considering that game in hand is against 18th place Villarreal, who have managed just three wins from 16 games in LaLiga, Santiago Solari’s men will be hotly tipped to cut the gap to five points at the Estadio de la Cerámica on Wednesday night.
But the Argentinean coach will not take anything for granted and is expected to name a strong starting eleven, lead from the front by Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. The Welshman has recently found his feet in front of the goal again and marked his first hat-trick in almost two years against the Kashima Antlers in the semi-final of the Club World Cup, which followed his lone goal in the 1-0 win away to Huesca earlier in December 9.
Benzema, meanwhile, was the lone goal scorer in Madrid’s last LaLiga game before the Christmas break against Rayo Vallecano, giving Los Blancos three wins from their last three league fixtures.
With in-form Marcos Llorente side-lined through injury, the return of Casemiro could not have been more timely. The Brazilian played some minutes at the Club World Cup and, with the absence of Llorente, will likely be cast straight into the defensive midfield position, behind Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Aside from Llorente, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz are also unavailable to Solari due to injury.
Huesca and Rayo Vallecano were Madrid’s last two league opponents, and are the only two clubs to sit behind 18th place Villarreal, who have so far had a very disappointing league campaign following their fifth-place finish last season.
Coach Javier Calleja was sacked after their 3-2 home defeat to Celta Vigo on December 8th, and was immediately replaced by ex-Malaga and -Osasuna manager Luis García Plaza, who managed a 2-0 win against Spartak Moscow in the Europa League and a 2-2 draw away at Huesca before the Christmas break.
Plaza will hope to keep his unbeaten run going and to pick up an unlikely three points, which would lift El Submarino one place to 17th and out of the drop zone. Their best hopes of beating a strong – yet far from impenetrable – Madrid backline will come from strikers Gerard Moreno and Carlos Bacca. The Spaniard (Moreno) and the Colombian (Bacca) have managed 14 goals between them (seven each) across all competitions this season, and each scored one of the two goals at Huesca in their last outing.
With few injury concerns, the new Villarreal coach will be able to name an almost full strength eleven, aside from one important absentee – captain Mario Gaspar, who misses the game through suspension for a red card picked up against Huesca.