In the 2017/18 season, Villarreal conquered the Santiago Bernabéu for the first time in their history. The Yellows already knew what it was like to taste victory at other big grounds, such as the Camp Nou, the Sánchez-Pizjuán, the Vicente Calderón or Mestalla. However, the Submarine had never won in their previous 18 visits to Los Blancos' coliseum, with a record of 13 losses and five draws.
But there is a first time for everything, and for the Yellows, that day came on 13th January 2018. Under the orders of Javi Calleja, the Submarine got a memorable and historic win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu (0-1).
Getting the three points wasn't easy. The Yellows were perfect in defence, and Sergio Asenjo pulled off a number of miraculous saved between the sticks. When the match was approaching its end, the Submarine launched a quick counter-attack after intercepting a corner from the home team. Denis Cheryshev drove down the left flank at full pelt until reaching the final third, where he laid the ball off for Enes Ünal. The Turkish striker was one-on-one with Keylor Navas, but was stopped by the Costa Rican goalkeeper.
The rebound fell to Pablo Fornals, who had run the length of the pitch to help his team-mates with the counter-attack. With a subtle touch with his left boot, the midfielder chipped Navas and put the Yellows ahead on the scoreboard, getting a goal that would go down in Villarreal history.
Calleja lined up with the following players at the Santiago Bernabéu: S. Asenjo; Mario Gaspar, Álvaro, Bonera, J. Costa; Rodrigo, M. Trigueros, P. Fornals, Castillejo; Raba, Bacca. Zinedine Zidane picked the following starting XI for Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Isco; Ronaldo, Bale.
After the win, Villarreal moved into fifth, with 31 points, only four behind Real Madrid, then reigning European champions, something which they would repeat for a third year in a row.
In the 2017/18 season, under Calleja, Villarreal ended the season fifth, with 61 points, confirming their place in the UEFA Europa League for the following season.