Madrid draws at Villarreal 2-2 before Champions League final
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid showed Liverpool its strengths and weaknesses a week before their Champions League final.
Madrid squandered first-half goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in drawing at Villarreal 2-2 on Saturday in its last match before attempting to win Europe’s most coveted trophy for a third year in a row.
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane aligned what could be his starting 11 for the final against Liverpool, except for giving 20-year-old son Luca Zidane his competitive debut in goal.
Zidane left striker Karim Benzema on his bench in favor of starting Ronaldo and Bale alone up front and playing Francisco “Isco” Alarcon along with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos as playmakers in front of holding midfielder Casemiro.
Madrid showed the same dominant form that has taken it to another Champions League final in the first half at Villarreal.
But after Ronaldo and Modric were replaced by Benzema and Lucas Vazquez with half an hour remaining, Zidane’s bunch displayed the same complacency and faulty defending that scuttled its Liga title defense months ago.
The draw in the final round meant Madrid finished the Spanish league in third place behind Atletico Madrid and champion Barcelona.
Bale opened the scoring with a solo effort in the 11th minute, and Ronaldo headed in a superb cross by Marcelo just after the half-hour mark.
Fifth-place Villarreal outplayed the visitors in the second half and leveled through goals by substitutes Roger Martinez in the 70th and Samuel Castillejo in the 85th.
“We played a very, very good first half, with determination, scoring goals, but the second half was the exact opposite,” Zidane said. “The important thing is that we didn’t have any injuries and can now rest well for next weekend. We are only thinking about winning the final.”
Bale, who struggled for most of the season to make Zidane’s first-choice 11, has finished the season strong and appears to have earned a spot in the Champions League final.
His opener against Villarreal, created when he let Modric’s pass run through as he spun around his marker, was his 14th goal in the last 10 rounds.
“Gareth has never given up,” Zidane said. “He has trained well. Nothing has changed. The only difference is that now he is scoring.”
Ronaldo’s goal was his 26th in the league. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi leads the competition with 34.
Castillejo snatched the draw after he raced behind Marcelo to receive a lobbed pass from Rodrigo Hernandez. Luca Zidane, who normally plays for Madrid’s reserve team in the third divison, stopped his initial chipped shot but Castillejo slotted the rebound into the open net.
Saudi Arabia midfielder Salem Al Dawsari made his Liga debut as a second-half substitute for Villarreal.
ASPAS MAKES HIS CASE
Iago Aspas made the most of his last chance to show Spain coach Julen Lopetegui that he deserves a spot on his World Cup squad.
The striker scored twice to lead Celta Vigo’s 4-2 win over Levante, taking his season tally for the league to 22, the most by a Spanish player.
Aspas was regularly chosen by Lopetegui during World Cup qualifying.
Celta announced after the match that coach Juan Carlos Unzue will leave the club and break his contract by mutual agreement.
Uruguay striker Christian Stuani scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season to lead Girona’s 2-1 win at Las Palmas.
Leganes fought back while playing with 10 men for over an hour to beat Real Betis 3-2 in a farewell of coach Asier Garitano, who won’t stay on after a good season for the modest Madrid club.
Wissam Ben Yedder gave Sevilla a 1-0 win over Alaves, and Loic Remy converted a penalty for Getafe to beat Malaga 1-0.