It’s difficult to pinpoint the main issue that Real Madrid faced today at Estadio de la Cerámica. But the list of problems was lengthy, regardless of what worried each Madridista who was watching the most.

One is the immaterial, or intensity. It was on the winning team but not the losing one. Real Madrid’s defence made errors as a result of Villarreal’s aggressive early play, which led to several good scoring opportunities.

Two Villarreal players in particular, Gerard Moreno and Yéremy Pino, took advantage of the tactical disarray between Real Madrid’s Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger numerous times throughout the game with their sharp passing, dribbling, and movement.

Even if Real Madrid’s backline was ineffective, they may have mitigated some of the harm if their press had been more effective: 2) Not been deployed at all, or 1) been (much) better. Villarreal was responsible for most of the frantic play that players in deeper spots had to make by cutting through haphazard pressing patterns.

Ancelotti’s team struggled to find opportunities on the offensive end as it stood at halftime, goalless—a scoreline that favoured Real Madrid—though they did have intermittent chances they couldn’t convert. Villarreal worked effectively to restrict Benzema and Vinicius’s room. Particularly, Juan Foyth, a player who has previously had success against Vinicius Jr., provided the best defence possible for the Brazilian winger. Fede Valverde played quietly on the other side.

Ferland Mendy gave the ball away, Real Madrid’s defense was unable to recover, Rudiger stepped up when he shouldn’t have, and to complete the circle, Mendy redirected the ball into his own net: Villarreal took a deserving lead in the 47th minute. There were no changes at halftime (in terms of either personnel or performance).

Following a Karim Benzema penalty that gave Real Madrid the lead, Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno converted a spot-kick to give them the lead three minutes later. And while the penalties—including one that wasn’t initially awarded when Rudiger was elbowed in the box—are (and will be) discussion starters, they shouldn’t overshadow the main point: Villarreal deserved their victory, and Real Madrid must do better.

In the ensuing hours, we’ll break this down in much more detail.

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