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
94' Peep, peep, peep! And that's it. Villarreal have salvaged a point and it is a repeat of last year's result here between these two sides. Madrid bossed the first half, but were unable to do the same in the second, as the hosts took control and looked the more dangerous for the final 35 minutes, eventually finding a way passed Courtois in the 82nd minute. That leaves Madrid seven points behind Barcelona, a substantial gap now with 17 games gone, and more frustrating points dropped for Solari's men.
92' Villarreal on the counter after Isco delivers a poor free kick! Ekambi is trying to go all the way himself, but he's eventually dispossessed in the box.
91' Three minutes added on here for either side to find a winner. And Villarreal almost have through Chukwueze, but Courtois saves!
89' Ramos is booked for an aerial challenge on substitute striker Bacca.
87' High intensity stuff now as Madrid scramble for a winner.
82' GOOAALLLL Villarreal!!!! Carzola heads home from five yards out, it's low and bounces through the legs of Courtois. That goal felt like it was coming for a while. Villareal have been in control of this second half and have got their just rewards.
77' Madrid have been on the back foot for the last 20 minutes, and can only sit back and soak up the pressure. Villarreal with another corner, which this time lands in the hands of Courtois.
75' Chukwueze plays a wonderful ball to set off team mate Moreno. The 19-year-old Nigerian has been excellent tonight and has shown why he is a top target of the likes of Arsenal, Man United and Bayern Munich.
70' Close Villarreal!! Defender Alvaro get his head on the end of a corner cross and it bounces just passed Courtois' right-hand post.
67' It has to be said if any team looks like scoring the next goal here, it's Villarreal. The hosts break well down the right on a counter attack but Chukwueze eventually gives a wayward pass which is nowhere near his on-rushing team mates.
65' Close Villarreal! Moreno shoves off a few challenges to tee himself up with a left-footed shot from 15 yards out. The shot beats Courtois but sails just wide of the left post.
63' Both sides make a change: Modric makes way for Valverde; Casares comes off for Ekambi
61' Villarreal again appeal for penalty for a challenge in the air as a cross came in but they will have to make do with a corner.
59' There have been some niggly challenges in this second half, and tensions eventually spill over: Carvajal and Lucas V are involved in a bit of pushing and shoving with Caseres.
57' It's been a scrappy second half so far, with neither team really able to hang onto the ball. No real clear chance for either.
55' The last game between these two at the Cerámica Stadium ended 2-2, a result still very much on the cards here.
51' Villarreal are appealing for penalty. Moreno is complaining he was impeded as he tried to get on the end of cross. But the ref waves play on.
49' Madrid have started as they left off in the first half: comfortable and in control, but not much action in front of goal as of yet.
45' Seocond half is underway, and Bale has come off for Isco. That probably has something to do with the knock he took in the closing minutes of the first half. Solari will hope it's not too serious.
El Subrmarino fans were overjoyed to see the first first-half goal at the Cerámica since August. Celebrations of course were short-lived.
45' Peep, peep! And that's the end of first half. Madrid in control here, but after giving away that early goal, they will remain on edge until they score a third. Villarreal hadn't scored a first half goal at home since August, that was until they struck one past Courtois in the fourth minute, which keeps them in the game here.
44' Chukwueze is showing some great skill, dancing around three or four defenders in the Madrid box. He's doesn't really go anywhere and who esle but Sergio comes in to shove him off the ball.
41' Casemiro booked and several Madrid players having a word with the ref. Not sure why, it was a clear yellow for a late challange on Carzola.
39' Play continues and Bale is back on. Solari will breathe a sigh of relief.
38' Play has been stopped here to allow Bale to receive attention. It looks like his calf.
33' GOAL DISALLOWED! Modric jumps on a spilled ball by keeper Asenjo, who failed to decisively deal with Kross's shot, and the Croatian slots into the net!! But the linesman on the right says offside, and there won't be many complaints there. Madrid tore the hosts to shreds there with that attack and it feels like it's only a matter of time before goal 3 comes.
31' Villarreal finally enjoying some time on the ball, and trying to work something here. But it eventually ends in a goal kick for Madrid, which Courtois plays short and Madrid are back in control.
27' Villarreal have their first corner of the game, but it's cleared by Casemiro. After a positive opening five minutes, they've faded away quickly in this game. Coach Garcia will no doubt be furious over the two soft goals they have given away.
25' Bale does well to turn his man and burst down the left flank. He looks up and puts a cross in towards Benzema in the penatlty area but it's cleared.
20' GOOAAALLL Madrid!!! Another header, this time from Varane. Toni Kross's cross from a free-kick set piece is met by the French defender by the six-yard area. He jumps high and dinks his header in to the bottom right corner. Two headed goals from two Frenchman, and it's 2-1 Madrid.
19' Benzema finds himself in space again, and tries to find one of this team mates in the box with a cross. But it's deflected away. The Frenchman has been involved in everything and causing Villarreal all sorts of problems.
15' Benzema, who's dropping deep and showing up on both flanks, finds himself on the end of a inch perfect long ball from Modric on the left wing. He slots it through for Lucas V, but his first time shot 8 yards out is saved. Madrid looking dangerous here.
13' Madrid looked rattled in the first five minutes, but are beginning to take control. They've threatened inside the host's box three times in the last two minutes.
11' Madrid have their first corner of the game, but it's dealth with by Villarreal keeper Asenjo.
7' GOAALLL Madrid! They're right back in it. Great link up play, Carvajal, down the right, sets off Lucas, who delivers a beautiful cross into the box, which is met by the head of Benzema. The header is low and bounces over the line. 1-1!
4' GOOAAALLL Villarreal! Well they almost scored a minute ago. And this time, Carzola finds himself in acres of space on the left corner of the box, and smashes a first time shot into the bottom right corner, leaving Courtois with no chance.
3' Great chance for Villarreal! Courtois does well to stop Chukwueze's shot from just inside the box.
2' Villarreal come flying out of the traps here. Passing well and looking threatening. Madrid now have the ball in their half and try to work it out, with Villarreal pressing high.
1' And Villarreal, in yellow, get the game underway. Madrid in their white strip.
The teams are walking onto the grass and we're almost ready for action here. Villarreal players have formed a guard of honour for Real Madrid as they enter, in recognition of their Fifa World Club Cup win last month.
Fans getting in the festive spirit outside the stadium. January 6 of course is a big celebration in Spain, the day of the "Three Kings", when kids get a second helping of Christmans presents. Solari will be hoping the Three Kings will have 3 points in the gift bag fpr him tonight.
Villarreal's 19-year-old Nigerian, Samuel Chukwueze, is of reported interest to several top clubs, including Barca, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United and Bayern. He will look to impress his suitors up front with Moreno tonight. Chukwueze gets the nod ahead of Bacca, who is the club's joint top scorer this season with seven goals.
Bale's first ever Madrid goal came against Villarreal at the Estado de la Ceramica. Will his latest be in the same fixture?
Real Madrid prepare for their first game of 2019. AS' Mario de la Riva has compiled coach Solari's to-do list for the New Year.
As Solari resigns Keylor Navas to the bench once again, speculation has intensified on whether or not the Costa Rican would be still at the club by the end of the winter transfer window. First came his Instagram message on January 1st, which seemed to suggest he was about to leave the club. Just two days later, Spanish media claim he has just signed a new contract until 2021. The "will he, won't he" saga will no doubt continue for a few days.
Villarreal Starting XI: Asenjo, Alvaro, Caseres, Victor Ruiz, Gerard, Fornals, Costa (C), Javi Fuego, Cazorla, Layún, Chukwueze. Coach Luis García has rung in several changes to the side that played at Huesca before the Christmas break. Costa wears the captains armband for the suspended Mario Gaspar
The only change from Madrid's last game against Al Ain in the Club World Cup Final is Casemiro, who comes in for injured Marcos Llorente.
Madrid Starting XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Kroos, Benzema, Modric, Bale, Marcelo, Casemiro, Lucas V.
The latest injury news for Madrid was in-form Marcos Llorente, who is side-lined for up to three weeks with a muscle injury picked up at training on December 31. But as Llorente bows out, direct replacement Casemiro returns to the fold and will likely start behind Kroos and Modric.
Good evening and welcome to our coverage of the LaLiga fixture between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Estadio de Cerámica. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it four wins from four last night for Manchester United, and another coach cast in during the middle of the season, Santiago Solari, will hope to make it four from four tonight, which would be the first time Real Madrid have done so in this campaign.
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.