Tuesday. 26.09.2023

Gareth Bale was almost a returning hero for Real Madrid, going as close as anyone to finding a winner in the 0-0 draw at Villarreal on Saturday.

Making his first La Liga appearance since August, Bale was initially a passenger, but he later drew three sharp saves from Geronimo Rulli, who kept the hosts in the game.

Madrid remain top of the table, but with Sevilla winning on Friday night it means the lead for Carlo Ancelotti's team has shrunk to four points.

The outcome was perhaps predictable from the first whistle: Madrid have now drawn their last five away La Liga games against Villarreal. All the same, there was almost a stoppage-time twist, substitute Luka Jovic chipping against the bar.

It was the home side who went closest in the opening 20 minutes when Arnaut Danjuma's shot took a touch off Marcelo and bounced back off the left post.

Villarreal's Alberto Moreno found a yard of space on the edge of the Madrid box and his thumping shot demanded a good save from Thibaut Courtois.

Bale then had a sniff of a chance, sprinting onto a throughball from Casemiro and seeing his shot well saved by Rulli.

Second half

Marco Asensio whipped a powerful shot a yard too high early in the second half, before Bale hit the bar from just inside the penalty area, Rulli with enough of a touch to prevent the Wales forward finding the net.

Dederico Valverde then stole the ball and played in Vinicius Junior, but Rulli spread his body well to keep out the Brazil winger's shot.

Bale again drew a save from Rulli, with the goalkeeper getting down to a flicked strike from the former Tottenham man, who lasted just over 70 minutes until Jovic replaced him.

Courtois had to be sharp to punch away a dangerous backpass from Marcelo, before Jovic nearly pinched the points, Nacho seeing the follow-up cleared off the line.

Bale catches the eye but leaders Real Madrid draw a blank