Crescent Kashmir

Real Madrid crash to Villarreal defeat as title chances fall further away

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BARCELONA: Samu Chu­k­w­u­eze scored twice to inflict a further blow on Real Madrid’s title hopes as they were beaten 3-2 by Villarreal at home in La Liga on Saturday despite twice taking the lead.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side had been imperious as they thra­shed rivals Barcelona 4-0 at the Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey semi-finals on Wednesday.

Yet they could not build on that momentum as they fell to a defeat that left them on 59 points in second place and opened the door for Barcelona to go 15 points clear at the summit if they beat Girona on Monday.

Real host Chelsea on Wedn­esday in the first leg of their Cham­pions League quarter-final tie.

“It was a difficult game, we had chances and we could have made it 3-1 and slowed down the pace of the game, but it didn’t happen,” Ancelotti told Movistar Plus. “We could have defended better. To be honest, it was hard for us to be 100% motivated, it’s quite normal.”

Real took the lead after 15 minutes when Marco Ase­nsio’s cross bounced off Villarreal’s Pau Torres and into the net for an own goal.

Villarreal found the equaliser in the 39th minute through Chukwueze, who cut inside from the centre of the box and beat Nacho before firing low out of Thibaut Courtois’s reach.

Vinicius Jr restored Real’s lead two minutes into the second half with a simple finish in front of the Villarreal goal for his ninth league strike of the season.

Quique Setien’s side levelled again in the 71st minute when Madrid’s defence failed to clear, allowing Jose Luis Morales to fire home from close range, with VAR overturning the initial offside decision.

Chukwueze scored his second 10 minutes from fulltime with a spectacular strike from the edge of the box into the top-left corner to win the match for Villarreal and silence the home fans at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“It’s a crazy goal,” Chukw­ueze said. “It’s a dream to score this goal and win here. I’m very happy for this game. The future is going to be much better. I have to take advantage of this moment and keep improving.”

Earlier, Mikel Oyarzabal and Takefusa Kubo struck for Real Sociedad in their comfortable win over Getafe.

Amid a run of inconsistent form after a strong start to the season, La Real suffered Europa League elimination and in recent weeks allowed teams to close in behind them in the hunt for Champions League football.

Atletico Madrid, third, overtook Real Sociedad in March after they dropped points in a draw with lowly Cadiz.

With this solid victory, Real Sociedad are four points clear of Villarreal and six ahead of Betis.

In the night’s other mat­ches, Athletic Bilbao bounced back from their Copa del Rey semi-final defeat by Osasuna this week with a 2-1 win over Espanyol. Barcelona winger Ez Abde, on loan at Osasuna, shone and struck twice for the cup finalists in a 2-1 win over bottom of the table Elche.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2023


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