Pablo Fornals scored in the 87th minute to stun Real Madrid as Villarreal secured a 1-0 victory Saturday in La Liga action at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain.
The Submarino Amarillo spent most of the match hunkering down in the defensive third against Real's relentless, but often off-target, attack.
A counterattacking opportunity arose in the final moments, and the visitors took full advantage as Fornals chipped a rebound over Keylor Navas for the dramatic winner.
Los Blancos fired 28 shots toward the visitors' net, including seven that were on frame, but couldn't beat Sergio Asenjo. The defeat extended the reigning champions' winless streak in league play to three matches.
Real manager Zinedine Zidane had downplayed criticism this week about the state of the club, which entered the fixture 16 points behind rivals Barcelona in the La Liga table, and emphasized the importance of remaining optimistic during the second half of the term.
"All that's being said about Real Madrid at the moment is negative, but I, and many others, don't share that view," he told reporters. "The situation is what it is, but we must look for positives; we're still alive in every competition. We're not in as bad a place as people say. We need to find that positive energy among the group and keep moving forward."
They were the far more active side, holding 56 percent of possession and having 18 shots compared to Villarreal's four, but they couldn't find the finishing touch despite several close calls—including Gareth Bale being ruled offside after finding the net off a corner and Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the outside of the post.
Ronaldo also had a chance just moments before halftime. He couldn't get much power on his effort after appearing to get clipped by Mario Gaspar, however, and Sergio Asenjo slid across to make a fine save.
EiF Soccer noted it was hard to tell whether a penalty was warranted and credited the Submarino Amarillo goalkeeper for keeping the match scoreless:
Another penalty not called on Ronaldo. Another very difficult one to see(hence VAR being needed). On the play itself, what a fantastic save from Asenjo. That’s three incredible saves from the Spaniard so far.2018-1-13 16:02:09
Meanwhile, Dermot Corrigan of ESPN wrapped up the first half:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
HT Madrid 0-0 Villarreal. Same old story for Zidane's side so far, Nacho been their most impressive player, crowd [and Ronaldo] angry with ref at break.2018-1-13 16:00:32
Real continued to push forward aggressively after the break, and the lack of efficiency around goal became more concerning with each missed chance.
Sure enough, all of the shots that sailed high and wide of the Villarreal goal came back to haunt Los Blancos, as manager Javier Calleja's side capitalized on one of its few attacking opportunities to get the win courtesy of Fornals. It ensures the 21-year-old Spanish midfielder's stock will continue to rise.
Karl Matchett of The Sportsman discussed the wide disparity between the run of play throughout the match and the end result:
Karl Matchett @karlmatchett
Madrid corner, VILL break four on three, poss offside Unal, Keylor saves…Fornals is ridiculous. Great composure, first time chip from 25 yards, over everyone and in. Madrid have done everything but score, but will now lose again.2018-1-13 17:00:08
Squawka Football passed along some final statistics:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Real Madrid 0-1 Villareal FT: Shots: 28-10 Pass accuracy: 89%-85% Chances created: 26-9 Possession: 58%-42% Real Madrid drop more points on Barcelona as an 87th minute Pablo Fornals goal condemns them to a home loss. https://t.co/E28mZmCgFn2018-1-13 17:07:33
Looking ahead, Real Madrid's search for top form will continue Thursday when they travel to Estadio Municipal de Butarque for the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Leganes. Los Blancos' next La Liga fixture comes next Sunday when they take on Deportivo La Coruna at the Bernabeu.
Villarreal return home to Estadio de la Ceramica to face Levante in league play next Saturday.