Sergio Ramos was the hero and the villain for Real Madrid as they failed to break Pep Guardiola’s record of 16 consecutive wins with Barcelona in 2010-11, ending their own run on the same number after a draw with Villarreal.
The centre-back gave away a penalty at the end of the first half before levelling the scores in the second, but his team could not find a late winner despite throwing the kitchen sink at the Yellow Submarine in the final stages.
Madrid equalled Pep’s record on Sunday against Espanyol and this seemed a good opportunity to break the all-time win tally in Spain’s top flight, against a Villarreal side still finding their feet under new coach Fran Escriba, but it was not to be.
Los Blancos were not helped much by the BBC strike-force, who contributed little to a disappointing display.
Madrid made the early running, with Karim Benzema forcing a good save from Sergio Asenjo, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s low header was also dealt with by the stopper.
At the other end Cheryshev, who caused Madrid so much pain last season when his ineligibility saw them turfed out of the Copa del Rey, nearly had the Santiago Bernabeu howling again when his curling strike forced Kiko Casilla to tip it away.
Nicola Sansone nearly broke through for Villarreal moments later, but his acrobatic effort soared over the angle between post and crossbar.
He was the guilty party again on the next occasion, dallying for too long on the edge of the box before the ball broke to Cheryshev, whose effort was blocked.
Villarreal eventually took the lead before half-time, when Sergio Ramos handled Manu Trigueros’ strike and referee Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez pointed to the spot.
It was a foolish mistake from Ramos, one he tried to hide by clutching his face as if the ball had struck him there—and who could blame him? It was a cheeky trick he successfully avoided a red card with against Espanyol at the weekend. Steven Taylor eat your heart out.
Unfortunately for the Madrid man he didn’t get away with this one, and Bruno made Madrid pay as he dinked a Panenka penalty past the diving Casilla.
However Real Madrid equalised right at the start of the second half, coming flying out the blocks.
James Rodriguez whipped in a corner from the right and Ramos made amends for his first-half error by nodding home at the back post.
Madrid kept turning the screw, with Benzema glancing a header inches wide, while Cristiano failed to reach Dani Carvajal’s low cross by the same margin.
Bale was next to come close, with his fierce strike wrapping itself the wrong side of the post after Benzema fed him.
It was a rare piece of link-up play on a bad night for the forward trio with Ronaldo soon going in the book for a frustrated kick out at Bruno, while his partners were substituted for Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Morata as Zidane introduced fresh legs up front.
Ramos appealed for a penalty after he tangled with Roberto Soriano in the box but it looked like he forced the contact with the Villarreal man and his appeal was waved away.
Vazquez was denied by a fine stop by Asensio and Morata from a Juan Angel block as Madrid pressed for the late winner, with the substitutes helping Madrid to rally.
Ronaldo had a golden opportunity in the 89th minute after Carvajal cut the ball back from the right, but his strike from 10 yards was straight down Asenjo’s throat and he handled it well.