Football news - Villarreal’s Santi Cazorla stuns Real Madrid with double to snatch draw
La Liga, Estadio de la Ceramica - Villarreal 2 (Cazorla 4', 82') Real Madrid 2 (Benzema 7', Varane 20')
Santi Cazorla scored twice as Villarreal fought back to claim a 2-2 draw against Real Madrid, leaving Santiago Solari’s side seven points off the top of La Liga.
Real Madrid have ground to make up on the leaders at the top of the table after their participation in the Club World Cup at the end of last year, but on this basis they will struggle to catch Barcelona.
Cazorla opened the scoring after just five minutes, curling a finish past Thibaut Courtois following a through ball by Samuel Chukwueze. However, it took Real Madrid just two minutes to level things, with Karim Benzema heading in a cross from Dani Carvajal.
Villarreal's Santi Cazorla celebrates scoring their second goalReuters
The visitors then took the lead when Raphael Varane got on the end of a Toni Kroos free-kick, guiding his header into the far corner of the net. Real Madrid had opportunities to increase their advantage, but spurned them. That would prove costly.
Gareth Bale was taken off injured at the break and that appeared to rob Real Madrid of an attacking outlet as Villarreal fought back. They got the equaliser they’d long threatened after 82 minutes as Cazorla headed home at the back post to give his side a share of the points.
Real Madrid's French defender Raphael Varane (2R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid CF at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on January 3, 2019.Getty Images
TALKING POINT - Real Madrid need to strengthen sooner rather than later
Looking at the benches of the two teams before kick off, it seemed that Villarreal actually had more in the way of quality than Real Madrid. And so it proved. Real Madrid are lacking depth at the moment, demonstrated by Solari’s inability to change the game in the second half. The January window is now open and Real Madrid must look to strengthen sooner rather than later.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Santi Cazorla (Villarreal)
If only luck had been on Cazorla’s side throughout his career. Now 34 years old, the playmaker isn’t the force he once was, but this was a demonstration of the former Arsenal’s man quality. Cazorla grabbed the headlines by scoring the earlier opener and the late equaliser, but he caused Real Madrid problems all night, drifting off his marker to find space in between the lines of midfield and attack. He was irrepressible.
Santi Cazorla of Villarreal CF celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid CF at Estadio de la Ceramica on January 03, 2019 in Villarreal, Spain.Getty Images
2’ Early chance! Fornals released Chukwueze in behind the Real Madrid defence. The young Nigerian could have squared for Moreno, he took the shot on himself and Courtois saves.
5’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-0 Real Madrid: It's an early opener and it has gone the way of Villarreal! Chukwueze drives forward through the midfield, plays the perfect pass for Cazorla and the former Arsenal man curls a finish past Courtois and into the back of the net.
7’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-1 Real Madrid: Real Madrid are back on level terms, although there was some confusion! The players heard a whistle, but Benzema was certainly onside when the cross came in from Carvajal. The Frenchman put the header past Asensjo.
Benzema, Casemiro - Villarreal-Real Madrid - Liga 2018/2019 - Getty ImagesGetty Images
21’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-2 Real Madrid: Real Madrid have turned this around! Kroos curled a free-kick delivery from the right side into the box and Varane jumped higher than everyone else to get on the end of the cross and head into the far corner of Asenjo's net!
34’ GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO... NO! This one has been ruled out for offside. Layun gave up the ball cheaply on the edge of his own box. Modric tucked the finish away, but he was offside.
45’ Bale off! This is a blow for the Welsh winger. He was holding his calf at the end of the first half and Solari has made the decision to take him off for the start of the second. Isco comes on in Bale’s place.
66’ Vazquez should have passed! That should have been a third for Real Madrid. Vazquez bundled his way through, he had Benzema free and square, but he takes the shot himself and Asensjo saves.
82’ GOAL! Villarreal 2-2 Real Madrid: That goal had been coming! Cazorla has grabbed his second of the night! Fornals clipped a wonderful cross to the back post and Cazorla was on hand to head down into the ground, through Courtois and into the back of the net!
Gareth Bale has been subbed off more times (15) than any other La Liga player this season (in all competitions).
Karim Benzema has scored more headed goals (five) than any other La Liga player this season (in all competitions).