|First Division - Day 33
Real Madrid 2 - Villarreal 1
Michel Salgado, Samuel, Pavón, Roberto Carlos; Beckham, Borja (Guti
68'), Zidane; Raúl; Owen (Figo 77'), Ronaldo (Iván Helguera 77').
Team changes: Madrid: No change / Villarreal: José Marí for Figueroa.
Real Madrid moved to within three points of leaders Barcelona pending their game on Sunday after coming from behind to beat Villarreal 2-1. The visitors started the day in third place and needed a win to have a mathematical chance of overtaking their opponents for that second spot which gives direct access to the Champions League. And they came out strongly at the start, pinning Madrid back in their own half in the opening minutes. However the home side gradually worked their way back, and Beckham should have put them ahead when he shot just wide of the far post after Ronaldo put him through.
It was a vital miss, as just five minutes later González Vázquez awarded a penalty to Villarreal after Pavón tackled Diego Forlán in the area, the referee waving away local protests that the defender had played the ball. Riquelme (currently on loan from Madrid's rivals Barcelona) stepped up and fired a shot wide of Casillas, even though Roberto Carlos had encroached in the area and was virtually alongside the player when he scored.
Things opened up after the restart, Samuel heading a pinpoint cross from Beckham wide of the mark and Owen having a couple of shots blocked. But the best chance of all fell to the visitors when Riquelme broke clear in front of goal, his pass to Forlán a little too strong for the striker to turn it into the net. Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for a clear offside a few minutes later, but soon afterwards Zidane broke free down the left wing and chipped the ball across for the Brazilian striker to head in on the far post.
Two minutes after Ronaldo's goal, Madrid appeared to suffer a major blow when Samuel was sent off for a second bookable offence. But they kept pushing forward, and although Ronaldo had a penalty appeal turned down, he recovered quickly to pick up the ball from a sloppy defence and cross in for Salgado to slide a shot wide of Reina. With his side in front Luxemburgo decided to play safe, taking off his front two to bring on Figo and Helguera. Pellegrini responded replacing a defender with Guayre, but the only chance after that was a shot from Riquelme which Casillas dealt with without too many problems.
With the game coming to an end their was a brawl between several players after Raúl and Jose Marí clashed, and when things died down red card were shown to Quique Alvarez and Zidane (who had 15 cameras on him throughout the match for a film which is being made about the French star). It put a bit of a damper on proceedings, and meant that Luxemburgo will be missing Zidane, Samuel and also Salgado (who picked up his tenth booking) for the next match at Real Sociedad, but the three points were in the bag and the pressure was back on Barcelona.