A patched up Real Madrid had to hang on to a 1-1 draw away from in-form Villarreal on Saturday, giving Barcelona and Atletico Madrid the chance to enjoy La Liga. Barca and Atletico face off at Wanda Metropolitano later on Saturday, when victory for either side proves to be even more valuable after another downfall of the defending champions. Mariano Diaz put Real Madrid ahead after just 105 seconds, but Zinedine Zidane’s side fainted at La Ceramica and Villarreal claimed a earned run thanks to Gerard Moreno’s penalty in the second half.
Mariano was almost sold last summer but had to replace Karim Benzema, who is injured, and Luka Jovic, who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.
Sergio Ramos and Casemiro were also missing after the international break.
Considering their absences, a draw might not be too much of a concern for Zidane, especially against a side Villarreal who were second at kickoff after four wins on the rebound.
But another slippage means Madrid have won just three of their last seven games in all competitions, with a crucial visit to Inter Milan coming to the Champions League on Wednesday.
If Atletico Madrid beat Barcelona, they will be three points behind their city rivals, with one game underway, and nine ahead of Barca.
Mariano hadn’t started for Real Madrid since May 2019, when he scored again early against Villarreal after just 83 seconds.
He wasn’t far behind this time, heading towards Dani Carvajal’s cross after Villarreal’s defense came to a halt for an offside on Lucas Vazquez that never materialized.
Villarreal increasingly took charge of the game, their smooth passing giving a sense of control but few chances, the best of them in the first half falling to Dani Parejo, who nodded.
But Madrid looked tired as the game progressed and the pressure from Villarreal became more threatening over the last 20 minutes, with Moreno flashing widely from the angle and then Parejo missing the target due to a cut.
The equalizer was late but deserved, as Thibaut Courtois flew off to meet a deep ball for Moreno but came in second and fouled the striker with his hands.
Courtois dived in the right direction but Moreno’s shot was well placed in the corner.
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