Liga - Nine-man Madrid stumble at Villarreal
Sergio Ramos and Mesut Oezil both saw red as Real Madrid were reduced to nine men in a 1-1 draw against Villarreal at El Madrigal that could strike a crucial blow in their Liga title hopes.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 61st-minute goal looked set to open the floodgates against the home side, but instead an already bad-tempered game descended into acrimony after Marcos Senna equalised from a deflected free kick with 10 minutes left.
By the time Ramos and Oezil were red carded, Real manager Jose Mourinho and his assistant Rui Faria had already been banished to the stands as the pressure being exerted on the league leaders by old rivals Barcelona began to show.
The first half was bereft of chances from open play; the exception coming when Villarreal striker Marco Ruben pounced on a defensive error from Ramos to fire towards goal from the edge of the area and draw a commanding save from Iker Casillas.
The same could not be said regarding set pieces however. Time and time again the pace of the home side’s back line was exposed by the energy of Marcelo and the trickery of Ronaldo and Oezil, leading to a number of desperate challenges by Joan Oriol and Christian Zapata.
Oezil and Ronaldo were given ample opportunities to whip in pinpoint crosses that the home side simply could not deal with. Fortunately for Villarreal’s new manager Miguel Angel Lotina, the heading of Ramos and Pepe was rarely accurate, and when it was, goalkeeper Diego Lopez was equal to the task.
Ronaldo’s goal, which came on the hour mark, changed the dynamic of the game, with Mourinho content to leave Kaka on the bench and instead stifle the home side’s attack by using the combative Hamit Altintop in place of Lassana Diarra – who was substituted during the first half after receiving an early booking – and then his replacement Jose Callejon, who went off injured at half time.
That tactic appeared to have backfired when Villarreal equalised through Senna with 10 minutes to go. The veteran midfielder’s strike exposed a weakness in the Madrid wall, which collapsed as one and deflected the ball past the helpless Casillas.
Mourinho, believing that the free kick should never have been awarded in the first place, made his feelings known to the referee and was banished to the stands, barely 15 minutes after a similar fate had befallen his assistant Faria.
Ramos was next to go: a high tackle on Nilmar earning him a yellow card to add to one from earlier in the half. Oezil was sent off just seconds later for dissent.
Despite four minutes of stoppage time, neither side managed to create a clear chance afterwards as the match ended even.
While Villarreal’s point moves them four points clear of the relegation zone, the result is far more worrying for Madrid. Eleven points clear just over a week ago, that gap has been slashed almost in half thanks to back-to-back league wins by Barcelona, while Mourinho’s men have drawn twice.