Sports Desk, Jan 7 (EFE).- Villarreal were too much Saturday for Real Madrid, beating the defending LaLiga champions 2-1 in a high-energy duel at La Ceramica.
The Blancos remain second, level on points with leaders Barcelona at 38 while trailing their archrivals on goal difference.
Villarreal improved to 27 points, the same as 4th-place Atletico Madrid, who sit above the Yellow Submarine in the table on goal difference as they prepare to host Barcelona on Sunday.
The hosts started brilliantly, creating multiple chances leading up to a backheel effort by Francis Coquelin that beat keeper Thibaut Courtois before bouncing off the post.
Real Madrid looked sluggish in the opening minutes and struggled to with the home side’s combination of a high press with solid defending at the back.
The Blancos’ best opportunity of the first half came in the 40th minute, when Vinicius Jr. forced a good stop from keeper Pepe Reina, while Villarreal tested Courtois on more than one occasion before the sides went to the dressing rooms knotted 0-0.
Two minutes into the second half, a giveaway by Blancos defender Ferland Mendy resulted in a chance for Yeremy Pino, whose shot took a deflection off the Frenchman before finding the net to make it 1-0.
The visitors won a penalty in the 58th minute after VAR determined that a Karim Benzema strike struck the arm of Villarreal’s Juan Foyth.
Benzema converted to level the contest at 1-1, but Gerard Moreno restored the Villarreal lead from the spot in the 63rd after Real Madrid were penalized for a hand ball in their box.
The final phase featured end-to-end action, yet the closest the Blancos would come to another equalizer was a Toni Kroos free-kick that sailed just over the cross-bar. EFE cta/dr