Real Madrid vs. Villarreal: 5 Things We Learned from Los Blancos Win
Life without Cristiano Ronaldo got off to a winning start as Real Madrid beat Villarreal 4-2 at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.
Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema opened up a two-goal advantage for Madrid, before Mario Gaspar brought the visitors back into the match.
Jese Rodriguez then continued his scoring streak, only to see a stunning Giovani dos Santos set piece bring the visitors within one again.
However, Benzema eventually ensured all three points would stay in Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s side remain unbeaten in 2014—only Athletic Bilbao have managed to take points off them.
Here are the talking points from Los Blancos' latest win.
Madrid Will Cope Without Ronaldo
It was a taste of life without Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid on Saturday night, and although it’s not something they will want to happen regularly, they came through the test with flying colours.
They scored four goals for the first time in nearly a month, when they put five past Real Betis on January 18, and all three of their forwards were on target.
Just because they beat Villarreal doesn’t mean they will always be fine without their star forward. However, considering he’ll only miss matches against Elche and Getafe, pending an appeal, they should be fine without him for a little while.
A rest may even benefit him in the long run.
Bale Bounces Back
Heads turned when Gareth Bale pulled out of the Real Madrid squad at the last minute for the Copa del Rey clash with Atletico Madrid in midweek.
However, it makes sense, especially with Ronaldo suspended, for Carlo Ancelotti to have spared him with vital league games in mind.
And, amid all the doubts over his fitness, the Welshman returned to action and the scoresheet in the 4-2 win against Villarreal.
It’s been a tough time for Bale, given the in-out nature of his time in the Spanish capital, but he has performed well in patches.
It makes sense to judge him properly in time, and it’s important not to write him off yet.
Jese’s Explosion Continues
Madrid fans have high expectations for Jese Rodriguez, and it is easy to see why.
The 20-year-old has been handed starting briefs by Carlo Ancelotti recently and has not disappointed—his goal against Villarreal was the fourth consecutive game he’s scored in.
He drove at the heart of the Yellow Submarine’s defence and applied a wonderful deft finish on Saturday evening at a time when Villarreal were threatening to get back into the game.
And when Benzema secured the three points late on, it was Jese who provided the assist.
The kid has talent.
Villarreal Got Talent
It shows how far Villarreal have come that their manager Marcelino was angry with the manner of their defeat at the Bernabeu.
"If I was happy with our performance today I wouldn't deserve to be Villarreal coach," he stated in the press conference after the defeat to Real Madrid (h/t @kierancanning).
Despite that, his side regularly had their more illustrious rivals.
Giovan dos Santos scored a wonderful free-kick, and the squad boasts an array of talented players: Bruno Soriano, Mateo Musacchio and now Oliver Torres on loan from Atletico Madrid.
The manager has a right to be disappointed with the defeat, but he also has a right to feel very proud that his club remain poised to fight for a Champions League place as the season draws to a close.
Left-Back Position Cursed?
It was not a good night to play as a left-back for Real Madrid.
Marcelo hobbled off after 17 minutes to be replaced by Fabio Coentrao. The Brazilian full-back looked in a lot of pain, and Madrid will hope the injury is not as serious as the grimace on his face suggested.
Then his replacement, Coentrao, didn’t come out after half-time. Alvaro Arbeloa took his place.
Fortunately for Arbeloa, who played at left-back with Dani Carvajal on the other side, he came through the second period without falling foul of the curse.