Real throw away lead to draw final league game at Villarreal
MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid suffered a potential confidence jolt ahead of next week’s Champions League final against Liverpool as they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Villarreal in their final La Liga game of the season.
Gareth Bale continued his bid for a starting berth in the Kiev final by scoring his fourth goal in three league games to fire Real ahead in the 11th minute, and Cristiano Ronaldo headed in a cross from Marcelo to make it 2-0.
Zinedine Zidane fielded an almost full-strength team, leaving out only Karim Benzema and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, with the French coach handing a debut to his 20-year-old son, Luca Zidane, in goal.
Colombian forward Roger Martinez pulled a goal back for fifth-placed Villarreal with 19 minutes remaining and Samuel Castillejo completed the home side’s revival by capitalising on a nervous moment from Zidane to knock the ball into an empty net in the 85th minute.
Real ended a disappointing domestic season in third place on 76 points, 14 behind champions Barcelona who can increase the gap to 17 if they beat Real Sociedad on Sunday. Second-placed Atletico, on 78, host Eibar.
Real can make amends by winning a 13th European Cup next week if they beat Liverpool and become the first team since 1976 to win the trophy three years in a row.
“We played very well in the first half and in the second half we were thinking about the final and managing the game, and when you do that your opponent can cause you problems,” Real coach Zidane told reporters.
“The league campaign started badly for us but we have ended it well and now we’ve got the most beautiful thing, which is the final. We’re ready for the final and we don’t have any injuries. That’s the most important thing.”
The point was enough to ensure Villarreal finished fifth in the standings on 61 points, one above sixth-placed Real Betis, who lost 3-2 to Leganes, although both sides were already assured of automatic places in next season’s Europa League.