La Liga: Real Madrid beaten again at Villarreal, Atletico joint top

Real were outplayed in the first-half but reacted after the break and were left to rue a hat-trick of missed chances by troubled French striker Karim Benzema as defeat piles the pressure on under-fire coach Rafael Benitez. Real now trail their city rivals and Barcelona by five points at the top of the table.

Karim Benzema failed to convert a chance in the second half.   -  Reuters

Rafael Benitez was unhappy with his team's performance in the first half.   -  AP

Real Madrid's La Liga title hopes were dealt another huge blow as they suffered a third league defeat in five games to Roberto Soldado's solitary goal at Villarreal.

Atletico Madrid's 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao earlier in the day means Real now trail their city rivals and Barcelona by five points at the top of the table.

Real were outplayed in the first-half on Sunday, but reacted after the break and were left to rue a hat-trick of missed chances by troubled French striker Karim Benzema as defeat piles the pressure on under-fire coach Rafael Benitez.

Was unhappy with the first half: Benitez

Elsewhere, a late own goal salvaged a point for Valencia in Gary Neville's first taste of La Liga action as Los Che battled back with 10 men to draw 1-1 at Eibar.

Real had won five consecutive games since being thrashed 4-0 at home by Barca last month, but were forced onto the back foot by a whirlwind start from Villarreal. “I am not happy at all with the first half and I think the reaction in the second half is the route we have to follow. Unfortunately, today it has cost us three points,” said Benitez.

Jonathan dos Santos had already smacked the inside of the post before Soldado turned home Cedric Bakambu's pass against his old club on eight minutes.

Bakambu had two great chances to double Villarreal's advantage before half-time, but the Congolese striker pulled his shot wide when clean through on Keylor Navas before firing over from inside the area.

Missed chances

Having been dominated in the first half, Madrid came out a different side after the break and had a series of chances to turn the game on its head.

Benzema had scored five times in his last two outings for Madrid despite his off-field problems which saw him indefinitely banned from playing for France in midweek, however his range was off as he volleyed inches wide from Gareth Bale's through ball.

Another fine Bale cross was blasted over by Benzema moments later before Bale had a great chance himself, but on his weaker right foot didn't have the power to beat Alphonse Areola in the Villarreal goal.

Benzema had one final chance to rescue a point, but his and Madrid's night was summed up when he headed wide when unmarked inside the area 17 minutes from time.

Victory takes Villarreal back to within a point of fourth-placed Celta Vigo.

Matchcentres:-

> Villarreal vs Real Madrid

> Atletico Madrid vs Athletic

> Eibar vs Valencia

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