La Liga: Zidane Distances Self from Criticism as Makeshift Madrid Settle for Draw

Villarreal 1-1 Real Madrid

The world of football is a far different world to anything else I’ve ever witnessed.

Over the years, this has been particularly noticeable to me in a pressure cooker scenario I have, on occasion, associated with two clubs: in my opinion, the two biggest names in world football – Real Madrid and Manchester United.

In the case of the former (and the latter is not too far behind), the gist is that if they lose a game there’s almighty pressure, two La Liga defeats in a row constitutes a full-blown crisis and three successive losses can often lead to calls for a manager’s head.

That may appear a slight exaggeration, but certainly the circus in Madrid has previously seen managers lose their job immediately after winning the

title or European Cup.

That farcical situation should be avoided this term but, should Real lose in midweek in Europe, hot on the heels of taking one point from six in two league matches, and all the media pressure will again turn on the man in charge.


Highlights of the game

Gerard Moreno rescues a point for Villarreal in their recent La Liga match against Real Madrid

Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno celebrates with teammates after scoring an equaliser against Real Madrid

In realistic terms, this was actually a decent enough result for the Spanish champions as they travelled to the side which started the day in second place. After leading for so long, however, how they could have done with a win.

The La Liga 2020 highlights were not long in coming. It took just two minutes, in fact, as Mariano Diaz gave Los Blancos a dream start.

The slew of injuries and Covid-related absences forced Zinedine Zidane into an array of changes with Nacho Fernandez called into replaced injured skipper Sergio Ramos, Martin Odegaard slotting into midfield and Mariano gaining his first start in over a year in place of Karim Benzema, flanked by Eden Hazard and Lucas Vazquez.

Mariano repaid the faith immediately as he headed home a cross from Dani Carvajal despite home appeals for offside against Vazquez, who was deemed not to be interfering with play.

It turned out to be their best moment of the encounter as the Yellow Submarine, enjoying a renewed zeal under Unai Emery, always pressed for an equaliser.

Dani Parejo headed narrowly over after a pass from Gerard Moreno.

Into the second period and the Spanish international also fired narrowly wide after a fine ball from Manu Trigueros.

Gerard was not to be denied, though, and after Samu Chukwueze was clipped in the box by visiting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the frontman slotted home the spot kick past the fingertips of the Belgian.

So, a goal apiece and a point apiece.

Perhaps this SBOTOP observer should have studied the La Liga 2020 betting odds a bit closer and not been too surprised that it finished level – after all, this fixture has ended up all square now for the past four seasons.

All in all, not a bad point for Real and Zidane who distanced himself from criticism post-match.

He’ll need to, given this is normal life in the Real goldfish bowl!


Key statistics

Moreno (12) has scored the most La Liga goals since it resumed in June – one more than Benzema (Real) and two more than Luis Suárez (Barcelona and Atletico Madrid)

Mariano has scored 11 goals from 22 shots on target for Real in all competitions, scoring a goal every 90 minutes played on average.

Courtois, who has won over many of his doubters since his signing two years ago, has only saved one of the 15 penalties he has faced for Real in all competitions and, ironically, also conceded his first penalty for the club against Villarreal.

Villarreal have won only one of their last 11 home games against Madrid in La Liga (drawn six, lost four), 1-0 in December 2015, drawing each of the last four at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Villarreal have not been beaten in any of their last seven games in La Liga (won four, drawn three), keeping a clean sheet in three of them. The last time they avoided defeat in more consecutive games in the competition was in October 2016 (won five drawn four on that occasion).

Until tonight, Real had lost two of their last four La Liga games, as many defeats as in their previous 33 games in the competition (won 24, drawn seven lost two).


What’s next?

Villarreal now have three consecutive away games (two in Europe, one domestically).

They go to Israel to meet Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Europa League on Thursday (November 26) and then face another side faring better than expected in La Liga, Real Sociedad, next weekend.

For Real Madrid, a tough Champions League tie awaits them in Italy in midweek as they meet Inter Milan – against whom they triumphed in a five-goal thriller a few weeks ago. It’s then Saturday night football next weekend as they host Alaves.




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