So far this La Liga season, Villarreal’s Yellow Submarine had tied Real Madrid away, beaten Atletico Madrid at home and tied Barcelona at home.


In the sixth-place side’s first game against one of the Big Three in the return round, Villarreal nearly affected the title race even more dramatically. On Sunday, hours after Barca got a vital late Lionel Messi winner against Atletico Madrid, Villarreal took a two-goal lead at home before a late Real Madrid comeback earned Zinedine Zidane’s side three points with a 3-2 victory.

It also preserved the spot atop La Liga for Los Blancos, whose lead had once looked cushy with a point of separation but two games in hand. After Wednesday’s loss in Valencia, though, another defeat on Sunday would have been crushing and would’ve vaulted a feeble-looking Barcelona side into the league lead.

Instead, Real Madrid remains ahead by a point and with a game to make up.

For the first hour, the danger was produced almost exclusively by the home team. In the 11th minute, Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas had to make a big, sprawling save on Mario Gaspar’s attempt.

Around the half hour, Villarreal had a flurry of chances. The biggest of them came when Samu dove at a cross and got a foot on it but couldn’t direct it on goal, sending it it over the bar and into the stands instead.

It would take until after halftime for Villarreal to convert the superiority of its scoring chances into goals, though. In the 50th minute, Manu Trigueros netted with a bouncing volley. [/restrict]