Real Madrid’s post-Clasico revival came to an end against Villarreal on Sunday night.
Rafa Benitez’s side had won four games in a row in all competitions following their crushing 4-0 defeat to Barcelona, but Roberto Soldado’s eighth-minute goal consigned them to a deserved defeat at Estadio El Madrigal.
The result leaves Real five points below La Liga leaders Barcelona and city rivals Atletico Madrid. Meanwhile, Villarreal climb to within one point of the top four.
Villarreal, who were unbeaten in five home games in all competitions before today, began the game with plenty of fierce attacking intent.
Real’s woodwork was shacking within the opening four minutes when Jonathan dos Santos smashed an effort off the inside of the post, following good work from Cedric Bakambu.
Villarreal got the goal their early dominance deserved moments later. Luka Modric was dispossessed just outside his own penalty area and the ball feel to Bakambu, who played in Soldado, and the former Tottenham Hotspur man nutmegged goalkeeper Keylor Navas with a confident finish.
Soldado’s opener was the earliest goal Real have conceded all season, having been officially clocked at seven minutes and 58 seconds.
Having taken the lead, Villarreal did not sit back – far from it! They should have been 2-0 up before half an hour had been played, but the lively Bakambu scuffed wide when one-on-one with Navas, after burning Pepe with his rocket-like speed.
Villarreal remained in the ascendancy for the rest of the first half, with another chance falling to Bakambu, who was wasteful again.
Real were instantly better after the interval. Karim Benzema went close to equalising as he sent a low volley inches wide, before Cristiano Ronaldo had two shots blocked in quick succession.
Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was forced to make his first save of the night on 55 minutes, denying Gareth Bale with an impressive parry.
That was the only save Areola had to make though. He should have been beaten with 17 minutes remaining, but Benzema missed a sitter with his head.
Full time: Villarreal 1-0 Real Madrid