Real Madrid earned a fifth consecutive home win by beating Villarreal 3-2 in an open and entertaining game on Sunday in front of their lowest crowd for a league fixture this season.
Madrid got off to an ideal start when Mariano Diaz netted in the second minute after teenager Brahim Diaz had chased down Santi Cazorla but Villarreal hit back in the 11th when Gerard Moreno slammed the ball inside the near post from outside the area after Real midfielder Casemiro was dispossessed.
Madrid, got themselves back in front shortly before halftime when defender Jesus Vallejo stuck the ball into an empty net after a deflected shot from Marcelo, while Mariano struck again early in the second half to stretch his side’s advantage.
Villarreal continued to threaten and after they missed several chances Jaume Costa pulled a goal back in stoppage time, while defender Xavier Quintilla had an opportunity to level in the final seconds of the game but missed the target.
Afterwards, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has said there was nothing sinister about Gareth Bale’s exclusion from the squad to face Villarreal.
“I’ve got to pick a squad and that’s it,” he said.”Is it a message to him? No, interpret it how you will.
“But I’ve got to pick a team, there’s nothing more to it.”
Zidane went on to speak about his other forwards, especially Mariano Diaz who grabbed two of the goals.
“Obviously he hasn’t had opportunities because he has been injured,” Zidane said.
“I’m happy for him and that he got two goals.”
Vinicius had also been out injured, but returned for this match and played his first minutes under Zidane.
“He has to work,” Zidane said of the Brazilian.”There are two matches left and then it’s time to think about next year.”
Would I take him to the Copa America? Well, I’m not Tite so we’ll see what happens.”