La Liga: Real Madrid Frustrated By Villarreal After Atletico Madrid Beaten By Alaves


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Real Madrid were held to a goalless draw by a determined Villarreal in La Liga on Saturday, failing to capitalise on Atletico Madrid’s stunning defeat by bottom club Alaves. Sevilla gained distance on Atletico Madrid thanks to a 2-0 victory over Espanyol, allowing Julen Lopetegui’s team to leapfrog Atletico and into second place. Atletico had lost their first game of the season to Alaves, who had won their first game after losing their previous five games and failing to score in four of them.

Source: AFP

Real Madrid might have gone five points clear with a win over Villarreal, but instead settled for a three-point advantage after a shabby display that contrasted sharply with their sleek 6-1 thumping of Mallorca in midweek.

In that game, Marco Asensio scored three goals and Karim Benzema two, but both were silent at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Carlo Ancelotti received his demand for tighter defending, albeit at the cost of his team’s attacking fluency.

“It’s clear it wasn’t our best match of the season,” said Ancelotti.

In the first half, Villarreal were the better team, led by their two fast wingers, Danjuma on the right and Yeremy Pino on the left.

Danjuma sped past Fede Valverde, but Thibaut Courtois turned his shot wide. Pino then set up Paco Alcacer for an opportunity, but Francis Coquelin’s follow-up was blocked.

Madrid improved after the interval, with Benzema and Eder Militao both going close with headers, although Villarreal remained a threat, with Danjuma forcing another Courtois save on the break before Pau Torres was inches away from tapping in at the back post.

Ancelotti introduced Eden Hazard, and Madrid cranked up the pressure in the final ten minutes, with Hazard crossing for Isco, whose header was hacked away. Vinicius sliced through the door and appeared to have the opening, but he burned over.

Atletico Madrid’s attacking difficulties have become more entrenched after a shaky start to the season that included a 1-0 loss to Alaves.

Victor Laguardia’s fourth-minute header was enough to give Alaves, who were ranked 20th at the time of kick-off, an unexpected victory.

Diego Simeone’s team has won only two of their last six games in all competitions, and this was the third game in a row in which they failed to score.

“Obviously we lacked ideas,” said Simeone. “I don’t think it’s a system problem. It’s about aggression, in defence, and other situations.”

After a goalless draw at home to Porto cranked up the pressure in a group that also includes Liverpool, Atletico travels to AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday, a game made more significant after a goalless draw at home to Porto cranked up the pressure in a group that also includes Liverpool.

Simeone put Antoine Griezmann alongside Luis Suarez up front once again, but the two combined for only one shot, which came from Suarez, with Griezmann being outshone by Angel Correa when the Argentinian came on in the second half.

Griezmann’s spot in the starting lineup is under increasing scrutiny. Joao Felix will return after serving a suspension in the stands, while Correa appears to be Suarez’s most in-form teammate.

Alaves had been without a goal for nearly 400 minutes when Laguardia got a run on Stefan Savic from a right-wing corner and headed in at the back post.

Laguardia was forced into defensive action in the second half, clearing Rodrigo De Paul’s free-kick off the line after the ball had gone through everyone in the area.

Mamadou Loum and Pina both blazed great chances over the bar as Alaves should have made the result more comfortable.

Correa had been introduced for Atletico as Simeone attempted to energise his squad, and the striker came close with a near-post effort but was denied, leaving Alaves to complete a miraculous victory.

After Thomas Delaney was sent out for disobedience, Sevilla overcame Espanyol but had to play the final 25 minutes with ten men.

Youssef En-Nesyri had put Sevilla ahead in the 13th minute, but Rafa Mir sealed the victory in the 87th minute by tucking the ball inside the far post.


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