VILLARREAL, September 2 (Primera Liga) – Bernd Schuster’s new brand of attacking football survived its toughest test so far as Real Madrid romped to victory over an in-form Villarreal at the Estadio El Madrigal.
The visitors – who started the season in style with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over derby rivals Atletico Madrid – played some devastating counter-attacking football to win thanks to Raul’s second goal in two games, a brace from Wesley Sneijder and further strikes from Ruud van Nistelrooy and Guti.
Villarreal had won nine matches in a row prior to this game but, despite dominating possession for the first half, were unable to put away their numerous chances.
Madrid came agonisingly close in the 14th minute as Robinho struck a sweet shot from just outside the area, but it went past Sebastian Viera’s outstretched glove and hit the post.
The game was open and in the 21st minute a long ball forward found Raul a few feet from goal. The veteran Spain striker tried to play the ball back across the area to Van Nistelrooy, but was denied by Viera.
Van Nistelrooy was playing wide to allow Raul more space inside and that worked to devastating effect in the 40th minute as new signing Sneijder chipped a great ball in from the left and Raul went in bravely to beat Viera to the ball, dinking it over the advancing keeper and into the net.
Real Madrid were looking like the attacking team of old as great combination play between Raul, Sneijder and Robinho put the latter through on goal where he was only denied by a great save.
Villarreal sent a reminder that they were still in this match with a flowing move of their own that saw Santi Cazorla released down the right, from where he beat his marker to cut inside the box and set up Giuseppe Rossi, but the young striker’s shot was easily saved by Iker Casillas.
Three minutes into the second half, Sneijder proved he is more than worthy of taking on David Beckham’s number 23 shirt.
The Holland midfielder was signed to replace the former England captain, and showed he is equally adept from set-pieces by curling a superb free-kick off the post and into the top corner.
It was a Dutch double two minutes later as Sergio Ramos played a ball in behind the defence to find Van Nistelrooy five yards out and he showed excellent composure to wait for Viera to go to ground before passing the ball past him.
Villarreal had looked the most dominant side in the first period but once Real had started scoring, it just seemed a question of when they would stop.
The hosts did have further chances in the second 45 though, and Guillermo Franco, Fabricio Fuentes and Marcos Senna all contributed to a Villarreal shot-count that matched their visitors.
But their lesson in finishing from the reigning champions was rammed home as first Sneijder doubled his tally, playing a one-two with Guti in the 72nd minute and firing home with the outside of his boot, and then Guti turned scorer seven minutes later with a well-placed shot from outside the area.