Real Madrid's 2017-18 LaLiga season came to a close in disappointing fashion with a 2-2 draw at Villarreal on Saturday night at the Estadio de La Ceramica in Vila-real.
Los Blancos jumped out to a 2-0 lead through goals from the red-hot Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, but a late surge from the home side thanks to goals from Roger Martinez and Samu Castillejo resulted in a sharing of the spoils.
While Real has been excellent once again in Europe, 2017-18 was at times a struggle on the domestic front and that was reflected in Saturday's result, which solidified their third-place finish in the table.
There were a few talking points to come out of manager Zinedine Zidane's teamsheet, the main one being a debut for his son Luca at goalkeeper. Also of note was the inclusion of Gareth Bale in the starting XI ahead of Karim Benzema, who found himself on the bench. Otherwise, all the players expected to start next Saturday in Kiev were tabbed by the French boss.
Bale was active from the start and a superb move from the Welshman allowed him to open the scoring just 10 minutes in. With his back to goal and a defender right behind, Bale took a slight touch and rolled off his marker before finally collecting the ball and firing in a right-footer for a 1-0 lead.
There were some moments from Villarreal, but Real's pedigree resurfaced shortly after the half-hour mark when Isco swung a pass out wide left to Marcelo, who used the outside of his right foot to loft a cross into Ronaldo and the Portuguese clinically redirected in a header for a 2-0 advantage.
Luca got his first real test early in the second half when Sansone fired a free kick that looked goalbound, but the league debutant showed no hesitation in soaring to his right to make the block.
Shortly after the hour mark Zidane made his first two changes, giving rest to Ronaldo and Modric and replacing them with Benzema and Lucas Vazquez, respectively.
Luca would then get some help later on from Sergio Ramos, who made a goalline clearance of a header after the young goalkeeper had come off his line to stop Sansone.
However, there was nothing Luca could do to stop the rocket launched by Roger Martinez, who collected a ball on the left edge of the penalty area, cut to his right and unfurled a shot that went searing into the top right corner of the net to cut the Real lead to 2-1.
Villarreal were keen to get something from the match and late on substitute Castillejo would earn the point for the Yellow Submarine by beating the offside trap and rounding past the flailing Luca before finishing into net to complete the 2-2 scoreline, which perhaps was an appropriate finish to Real's disappointing domestic campaign.
2.- Villarreal: Andres; Mario, Bonera, Alvaro, Adrian Marin; Rodri, Javi Fuego (Salem, min. 57); Soriano, Fornals (Castillejo, min. 77), Sansone; Enes Unal (Roger Martinez, min. 68).
2.- Real Madrid: Luca; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric (Lucas Vazquez, min. 62), Isco (Kovacic, min. 73); Bale, Cristiano (Benzema, min. 62).
Goals: 0-1, min. 11: Bale; 0-2, min. 32: Ronaldo; 2-1, min. 71: Roger Martinez; 2-2, min. 85: Castillejo.
Referee: Sanchez Martinez (Murcian).
Yellow cards: Modric (Min. 48) for Real Madrid, Alvaro (Min. 79) for Villarreal, Castillejo (Min. 79) for Villarreal, Casemiro (Min. 84) for Real Madrid, Kroos (Min. 89) for Villarreal, Salem (Min. 94) for Villarreal.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: La Ceramica.
2018 World Cup Soccer Predictions Website...