August 14, 2022

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The only positive that Real Madrid could take away from its scoreless draw with Villarreal...

The only positive that Real Madrid could take away from its scoreless draw with Villarreal on Saturday was Gareth Bale, whose good form belied his return to the pitch after more than five months on the sidelines.
The stalemate left Madrid four points clear of second-placed Sevilla as the Spanish league leader continues to struggle without injured striker Karim Benzema, and with their Champions League clash against Paris Saint-Germain just three days away.

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, second left, duels for the ball with Villarreal’s Vicente Iborra during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Bale had not played for Madrid since he made three appearances in August. Then a series of injuries and a COVID-19 infection ensured he fell out of Carlo Ancelotti’s rotation in favor of younger players such as Vinícius Júnior and Marco Asensio. During that period, however, he did play three World Cup qualifiers for Wales, twice in September and once in November.
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With Benzema recovering from a left hamstring pull, Ancelotti gave Bale the nod to play as his striker. Bale needed almost the entire first half to finally get involved, but once he did, he showed the same ability he always had to produce scoring chances.
“(Bale) had his opportunity and he made the most of it. He could have scored, he gave us a threat up front, he did all we asked of him,” Ancelotti said about the former star who returned to Madrid last summer after his loan to Tottenham.

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Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, right, tries a shot during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale controls the ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Only the goalkeeping of Gerónimo Rulli stopped Bale on three occasions, including one shot he pushed onto his bar in the 56th minute. Late substitute Luka Jovic almost grabbed a stoppage-time winner on the break when he sent his chipped shot onto the bar.
Villarreal, which moved into fifth place, was also without its top striker as Gerard Moreno nursed a right leg injury.
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Villarreal, however, got the better of Madrid in an intense, and sometimes testy, first half.
Besides his surprise choice of Bale, Ancelotti also started the sparingly used Marcelo on the left side of his defense. Marcelo, whose contract is up in June, was slow to keep up with winger Samuel Chukwueze, while new arrival Giovani Lo Celso cued Villarreal’s passing attack.
A pass by Lo Celso set up Arnaut Danjuma in the heart of the area for back-to-back chances in the 18th. David Alaba blocked his first shot and the follow-up effort hit .

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, left, vies for the ball with Villarreal’s Alberto Moreno during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

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But it was Chukwueze and right back Juan Foyth who repeatedly surged past Marcelo on Villareal’s right flank that forced Madrid’s defense to scramble into its box.
Only Vinícius could respond for the pacesetters, but he spent as much time complaining about the rough treatment by defenders as he did tormenting the opponent.
Tempers flared midway through the half when Dani Carvajal kicked the ball into the face of the prone Lo Celso. The referee booked Foyth and Madrid’s Éder Militão for shoving.
Bale needed until the 42nd to finally make an impact, latching on to Casemiro’s long ball behind the backline and drawing a save from Rulli.

Villarreal’s manager Unai Emery gives instruction inside the box team area during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid’s head coach Carlo Ancelotti watches the play during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

After halftime, Bale came closer on a counterattack, cutting back and firing a left-footed shot that Rulli got just enough off to nudge onto his crossbar.
Rulli had to rescue Unai Emery’s side twice more by denying Vinícius and Bale before Villarreal managed to restore parity and preserve the deadlock to split the points.
“Each side had their half. We did enough to have led the first half, but then they had their chances in the second and we struggled. I think splitting the points is a fair result,” Villarreal defender Raul Albiol said.
Madrid faces a trip to play PSG on Tuesday with only one win in its last four games and doubts if Benzema will be ready.
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Cádiz goalie Jeremías Ledesma saved a late penalty by Celta Vigo’s Santi Mina to ensure a 0-0 draw, while Osasuna rolled to a 3-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano.

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Madrid held at Villarreal before PSG; Bale makes rare start appeared first on maserietv.com.