Real Madrid frustrated by Villarreal

MADRID (AFP) – Real Madrid failed to capitalise on Atletico Madrid’s shock defeat by bottom club Alaves early yesterday as they were held to a goalless draw by a determined Villarreal in La Liga.

Dropped points for Spain’s leading pair allowed Sevilla to make up some ground at the top, with Julen Lopetegui’s side beating Espanyol 2-0 to jump above Atletico and into second.

Atletico had earlier slipped to their first loss of the season at Alaves who struck their first win, having lost all of their previous five games and failed to score in any of the previous four.

It meant Real Madrid could have gone five points clear by beating Villarreal but settled for a three-point lead after a scruffy performance came in stark contrast to their slick, 6-1 thrashing of Mallorca in midweek.

Marco Asensio scored three and Karim Benzema two in that game but both were quiet at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Carlo Ancelotti got his wish for tighter defending, but at the expense of his team’s fluidity in attack.

Villarreal’s defender Juan Foyth vies for the ball with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema during the match. PHOTO: AFP

“It’s clear it wasn’t our best match of the season,” said Ancelotti.

Villarreal were the better side in the first half, spearheaded by their two speedy wingers in Danjuma on the right and Yeremy Pino on the left.

Danjuma surged past Fede Valverde but his shot was tipped wide by Thibaut Courtois before Pino then created a chance for Paco Alcacer before Francis Coquelin’s follow-up was blocked.

After half-time, Madrid improved, Benzema and Eder Militao both going close with headers while Villarreal looked dangerous too, Danjuma forcing another Courtois save on the break before Pau Torres was inches away from tapping in at the back post.

Ancelotti brought on Eden Hazard and Madrid turned the screw in the last 10 minutes as Hazard crossed for Isco but his header was hacked away. Vinicius cut inside and looked to have the opening, but blazed over.

Atletico Madrid’s attacking problems appear more entrenched as their rocky start to the season continued with a shock 1-0 defeat by Alaves.

Victor Laguardia’s header in the fourth minute was enough for an unexpected victory for Alaves, who sat 20th at kick-off.

Diego Simeone’s side have managed only two wins from their last six games in all competitions and this was the third time in four matches that they have failed to score.

“Obviously we lacked ideas,” said Simeone. “I don’t think it’s a system problem. It’s about aggression, in defence, and other situations.”

Atletico face Barcelona next weekend after travelling to AC Milan in the Champions League tomorrow, a game made more important after a goalless draw at home to Porto cranked up the pressure in a group that also includes Liverpool.