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Winners & Losers

Ferland Mendy what are you doing?! Real Madrid winners, losers & ratings as ruthless Villarreal put dent in Los Blancos' title bid

2:03 AM SGT 8/1/23
Karim Benzema Real Madrid 2022-23
Real Madrid scored one penalty before conceding from another as they dropped points in the Liga title race against a buoyant Villarreal side.

It is difficult to see where, exactly, David Alaba could have put his hand. He had fallen awkwardly in the box, and a scuffed shot trickled into his wrist as he attempted to break his fall. The referee swiftly, and somewhat harshly, pointed to the spot, with Villarreal's Gerard Moreno converting the ensuing penalty to give his side a 2-1 lead - one they wouldn't relinquish.

It was the defining moment of a difficult afternoon for Los Blancos. Fielding the first line-up in their history without a Spanish player, Madrid were overrun by a surging Villarreal side, who came away deserved winners.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were perhaps lucky to still be in the game at the break. Villarreal swarmed all over the Liga champions, winning the ball high up the pitch and creating chances. Thibaut Courtois denied one shot, while Francis Coquelin flicked another off the post.

And the Yellow Submarine capitalised early in the second half. Ferland Mendy gave the ball away with a lazy pass, and Gerard Moreno fed Yeremi Pino, who turned home past Courtois - via a deflection from the struggling Mendy.

Madrid equalised shortly after, as Benzema converted a penalty following a lengthy VAR review, but Villarreal only needed three minutes to reclaim the lead. Alaba slipped in his own box and inadvertently punched the ball as he landed. Gerard Moreno dutifully tucked away the ensuing penalty, sending the home side to a deserved three points.

Here's the Madrid winners, losers and ratings on a damaging evening for Los Blancos.

  • Xavi Barcelona 2022-23

    The Winners

    Gerard Moreno:

    Moreno was fantastic leading the line for the Yellow Submarine. The forward constantly drifted between the lines, leaving Madrid's centre-backs baffled. His link-up play was equally impressive, as he found Villarreal's wingers with regularity. He was unfortunate not to score in the first half, and deserved his goal in the second.

    Raul Albiol

    Greying beard aside, it's hard to believe that former Real Madrid defender Raul Albiol is 37. The veteran centre-back turned in a classy performance on Saturday, a perfect sort of rigid showing that limited Madrid's chances. He refused to be pulled out of position by Benzema, and often offered cover for Juan Foyth against the tricky Vinicius Jr. He made seven clearances, five recoveries, and picked up one clever yellow card for taking down Vinicius when the winger looked certain to run through on goal. What a footballer he is and he'll have enjoyed that against his past employers.

    Barcelona

    There are bound to be more twists and turns in this title race. Neither team is good enough to win every game, and such are the burdens of the European schedule that freak results are possible. But every point Madrid drop is valuable to the Catalan club. They are likely to also be encouraged by the Real performance here. Ancelotti didn't get the best out of his side, and they were often erratic at the back. An off-day for Madrid but if it becomes a pattern, Barca will get even more of a boost.

  • Carlo Ancelotti Real Madrid 2022-23

    The Losers

    Ferland Mendy:

    The left-back has been linked with a move away from Real Madrid in recent months, and on afternoons like this, it's easy to see why. Mendy has never been a terrific attacking full-back, but alongside the forward-thinking Vincius Jr, he needs to be switched on definitely - and he hasn't been this season. Too often, Mendy is beaten on the dribble, or caught out of position. He was at fault for Villarreal's opener, giving the ball away and allowing the opposition to attack. He perhaps could've also been better in the build-up to the home side's second, as he allowed his man to cut inside too easily.

    Madrid's high line:

    It always appeared risky to play such a high line against a pacey Villarreal side. There were few secrets as to how the home team would set up here. Chukwueze and Pino were always likely to look for space in behind, while Gerard Moreno would drift around enough to open gaps in the Madrid defence. And in a sense, Real played into their hands. Chukwueze often had grass to run into on the right, while Alberto Moreno continuously surged forward on the left. Although neither of the Villarreal goals came from Madrid's penchant to push up, they were simply caught out too often.

    VAR:

    The "clear and obvious" debate rages on. VAR gave one penalty on Saturday afternoon, and perhaps should've overturned another. Madrid's spot-kick was a rather soft one, with the ball barely flicking the fingers of Juan Foyth's outstretched arm as he sprinted after Vinicius. The referee saw nothing in real time, and Vinicius was the only Madrid player to protest in earnest. But VAR agreed with him - much to the anger of Villarreal - and Madrid were, perhaps quite fortunately, handed a lifeline. Los Blancos had reason for frustration of their own just three minutes later, though. David Alaba rather clumsily fell to the ground in his own box, but could do little about his arm's position as he aimed to cut his fall. The ball trickled onto his hand, it was unavoidable. Relative to the unfortunate nature of the penalty three minutes prior, it felt rather harsh.

  • David Alaba Real Madrid 2022-23

    Real Madrid Ratings: Defence

    Thibaut Courtois (7/10):

    Rushed off his line to deny Gerard Moreno midway through the first half. Made another couple of saves, and could do little about either goal.

    Eder Militao (5/10):

    Looked reliable as a right-back for Brazil at the World Cup, but less so here. Ancelotti opted for Militao in the absence of Dani Carvajal, and it didn't quite work out.

    Antonio Rudiger (5/10)

    Really poor start from the German, who gave the ball away twice within the first two minutes. Grew into the game a bit, but one to forget.

    David Alaba (5/10):

    Was very unfortunate to give away the penalty, but it was a clumsy fall that led to it. Helped out a languid Mendy, to stop Samuel Chukwueze, though.

    Ferland Mendy (4/10):

    Gave away the ball in the build-up to Villarreal's opener, then deflected Yeremy Pino's strike into his own net while trying to recover. Didn't offer much going forward, either. Wouldn't be surprised to see Madrid dip into the market for a new left-back this summer.

  • Toni Kroos Real Madrid 2022-23

    Midfield

    Luka Modric (6/10):

    Slipped one outrageous pass through to Valverde in the early goings, but his influence faded after that. Looked leggy and deserved to be substituted after 70 minutes.

    Aurelien Tchouameni (6/10):

    The Frenchman looked rusty in his first start since returning from World Cup duty. He was efficient on the ball, but didn't win a single tackle, and left some space open for Moreno to capitalize.

    Toni Kroos (7/10):

    The best of Madrid's midfield three on the day. Completed 95% of his passes, sprayed some wonderful long balls, and curled a free-kick narrowly wide late on.

  • Karim Benzema Real Madrid 2022-23

    Attack

    Fede Valverde (6/10):

    A few nice runs early on, but the Uruguayan sometimes goes missing. This was one of those times.

    Karim Benzema (7/10):

    Hovered around for long stretches, but had relatively few chances. Got on the scoresheet, though.

    Vinicius Jr. (6/10):

    Was given a very difficult afternoon by Juan Foyth, but started to create more chances in the final stages of the game.

  • Eduardo Camavinga Real Madrid 2022-23

    Subs & Manager

    Lucas Vasquez (6/10):

    Performed better against Pino than Militao.

    Rodrygo (5/10):

    Missed one glaring chance in the final minutes.

    Eduardo Camavinga (6/10):

    A good little cameo from the midfielder. Won a couple of tackles and offered some attacking thrust.

    Marco Asensio (5/10):

    Ran around a bit, gave away the ball in the last minute with Courtois up for a corner.

    Carlo Ancelotti (5/10):

    Ancelotti got his tactics wrong against Villarreal. He made a big call opting for Militao at right-back, and the Brazilian was off the pace. The defensive set-up wasn't quite right, either, as the home side had far too much space to operate in. A poor start to the calendar year.