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Pride and determination (4-4)
Pride and determination (4-4)

Villarreal pull three goals back from three goals down, led by a stellar Sorloth, to fall just short of victory and European football

Villarreal showed pride and determination against Real Madrid (4-4). Led by an imperial Alexander Sorloth, who scored a hat-trick, they levelled the score at 1-4 at the start of the second half and came within a whisker of victory and the chance to continue fighting for Europe on the final day of the season.

Marcelino’s side went into the match with European options. However, they did not depend on themselves, but on the result of the Betis vs Real Sociedad match at the Benito Villamarín. The Submarine’s calculations were simple, but by no means easy. They needed to beat the champions and hope that Betis failed to do the same.

The Submarine were missing two of Marcelino’s first-choice players: Kiko Femenía and Álex Baena. However, the Yellows had Gerard Moreno back in the starting eleven after several weeks on the sidelines.

Villarreal had the first clear chance of the match. After five minutes, Sorloth’s powerful left-footed shot from the edge of the area hit the post of the goal defended by Lunin.

Despite Villarreal’s attacking start, the first blow of the game was struck by Real Madrid. Los Blancos took the lead through Arda Güler. The young Turkish striker beat Jorgensen with a cross-shot after taking advantage of a good pass from Brahim Díaz with an angled control.

With 0-1 on the scoreboard, Marcelino’s team kept trying. And they came very close to scoring the equaliser. A close-range shot saved by Lunin and a scramble inside the six-yard box prevented it.

Before the half-hour mark, Real Madrid were again in fine form as they made it 0-2 with their second chance of the game. Joselu headed in a right-wing cross from Lucas Vázquez that Filip Jorgensen could do nothing about.

Madrid’s second goal was a bitter blow for the Yellows, who did not give up. In the last part of the first half, Sorloth pulled one back by beating everyone and heading home a cross from the right. Unfortunately the 1-2 scoreline was short-lived because Real Madrid scored the third goal in their third chance of the game. This time it came from Lucas Vázquez.

In first-half stoppage time, Arda Güler scored the fourth and took the Submarine’s continental aspirations even further away. The outlook was bleak for the Yellows.

Ahead of the second half, Marcelino made a triple substitution, bringing on Bertrand Traoré, Francis Coquelin and Raúl Albiol for Ilias Akhomach, Dani Parejo and Jorge Cuenca. And the script changed completely.

After a magical start from the Submarine and in just ten minutes, Sorloth scored three goals to level the match and become the lone ‘pichichi’ with 23 goals in LALIGA EA Sports. It was madness. 4-4 with a long game to play and all to play for at La Cerámica. Sorloth’s goals came twice from Gerard’s pass: one with a header and the other after a gallop into space. And the last one was the culmination of a counter-attacking move led by Gerard and Guedes.

As the minutes went by, Villarreal lost steam and Real Madrid introduced fresh players. The Whites took possession of the ball and forced the Yellows to defend in their own half. Even more so when Gerard Moreno came off the pitch, after a huge effort and two assists.

In the final stretch of the game, the Submarine tried hard and with heart, but were unable to score the fifth goal, which would have earned them the win and kept them in with a chance of going into the final matchday of the championship. The team gave a lesson in grit and determination as they bid farewell to the season in front of their fans, who gave them a resounding ovation for their efforts. They also chanted the name of Sorloth, who is leading the race to be the league’s top scorer.