Santi Cazorla enjoyed his finest night since returning to the Spanish league as the veteran midfielder scored two goals to earn Villarreal a 2-2 draw at home against Real Madrid on Thursday, 3 January.
They were the 34-year-old Cazorla's first La Liga goals since rejoining Villarreal after several seasons at Arsenal, the last of which was plagued by injury. He had already scored in the Europa League and the Copa del Rey this season.
"“It is a special night, scoring two goals against Real Madrid and to score again in La Liga. I am in better shape and in less pain. I am feeling better as I go along.”" - Santi Cazorla, Villareal
Cazorla used one touch to expertly curl a pass from Samuel Chukwueze just inside the far post to give Villarreal a fourth-minute lead.
Madrid responded quickly with headed goals from Karim Benzema in the seventh and Raphael Varane in the 20th to regain control.
But the visitors lost Gareth Bale to an injury late in the first half, with Francisco "Isco" Alarcon replacing him at half-time.
Villarreal dominated possession and most of the scoring chances in the second half as Chukwueze repeatedly threatened on the break.
Madrid coach Santiago Solari substituted midfielder and Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric for little used Federico Valverde midway through the second half, but his team remained on the defensive.
Cazorla then scored the 82nd-minute equalizer by heading Pablo Fornals' pass through the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Cazorla, who has over 70 goals in more than 500 professional appearances, said that this was just his second ever scored with a header.
"Santi is an example for all us," said Villarreal coach Luis Garcia Plaza. "I am thrilled to see him back at this level, not just for him but for all of Spanish football."
Real’s Domestic Wobbles Continue
The Villareal-Real clash was postponed last month owing to Madrid’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, where the European champions lifted a fourth crown in five years.
In Spain, however, Real continue to flounder, finding themselves seven points behind table-toppers Barcelona in fourth place.
Villareal were able to move out of the relegation zone with the point.
Both sides must recover quickly for their next league matches on Sunday, 6 January. Real Madrid are at home against Real Sociedad, while Villareal are away at Eibar.
"We are disappointed," said Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. "Obviously today's match was one to win to close the gap (with the front-runners). But now we have to get ready for Sunday."
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