Real Madrid were held by Villarreal in Gareth Bale’s first game for los Blancos since August.
With half an eye on Tuesday’s Champion’s League clash with Paris St-Germain, Ancelotti did not play a full side giving the Welshman a chance in the starting eleven and with a bit of luck he could have had two goals.
Just before the break he brought down a long ball from Casemiro superbly and was denied by Geronimo Russi saving above his head and the keeper denied him twice more in the second half, tipping one shot onto the bar and getting just enough of a hand on a toe poke to allow Juan Foyth to clear on the line.
In injury time Real came close to grabbing a winner through their substitutes as Luka Jovic chipped Russi only to see his effort come back off the bar and Nacho Fernandez’s rebound was blocked on the line by Serge Aurier.
The draw leaves Real four points clear at the top of the league and Villarreal fifth before the rest of the Spanish top-flight are in action.
Bale to impact late season? With his contract up in the summer it is easy to assume the Welshman will not have much impact in his final months in Madrid, but this performance may change some minds. Although barely noticeable for the first 40 minutes, with a bit of luck he could scored have three in his first game for the club since August. Carlo Ancelotti fell out with owner Florentina Perez due to a dispute concerning Bale in his first stint in the club, but comes across as a more forgiving leader than other managers at the Santiago Bernabeu.
With Bale now over the triumvirate of a knee injury, Covid and back issues, he could well have a role to play in the later rounds of the Champion’s League. If there is one thing you can say about Bale, it is he is a big match player.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Geronimo Rulli (Villareal) – Although the Yellow Submarines had the better of the first half, Real always looked the more potent in front of goal and they would have won by a couple of goals were it not for a fine performance from Rulli. The stopper made fine saves from Bale in the either half and made himself big to deny Vincius Junior a goal too.
Villarreal: Rulli 8*; Foyth 7, Albiol 6, Pau Torres 7, Pedraza 6; Chukwueze 7, Iborra 6, Dani Parejo 7, Alberto Moreno 6; Lo Celso 7, Danjuma 6.
Subs: Trigueros 6, Dia, 6, Pino 6, Estupinan 6, Aurier 7.
Real Madrid: Courtois 6; Carvajal 7, Eder Militao 7, Alaba 7, Marcelo 6; Kroos 7, Casemiro 7, Fede Valverde 7; Asensio 7, Vinicius Junior 6, Bale 7.
Subs: Jovic 6, Modric 6, Rodrygo 6, Hazard 7, Nacho 7.
19′ Off the post! Lovely play from Villarreal ends up with Lo Celso squaring for Danjuma whose is blocked by a desperate chalenge from Alaba, and then from the rebound he shoots against the post.
43′ Bale almost opens scoring! He races onto Casemiro’s throughball and takes it down superbly but Rulli saves well above his head as the Welshman looks to loft the ball over him.
56′ Off the bar! Bale was fed by Vinicius Junior on the right wing and turned and curled an effort which Rulli pushes against his own crossbar and over.
65′ Bale shot almost sneaks in! Vincius Junior plays in Bale who takes his time before toe poking towards the far post but Rulli gets just enough of a touch to it that his defenders can stop it crawling over the line.
90+2′ Jovic so close! He is played through by Hazard and chips Russi only to see the ball come back off the bar. Nacho then shoots at goal but Aurier stoops to stop the ball with his body.