So close, yet so far: draw leaves Real Madrid one win short of Liga win record as Barcelona lose Lionel Messi

Zinedine Zidane’s side could only manage a 1-1 stalemate with Villarreal, although they remain two points clear at the top of the La Liga table

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 10:02pm

Villarreal held on for a 1-1 draw to shatter Real Madrid’s hopes of setting a new record for consecutive victories in the Spanish league on Wednesday.

Zinedine Zidane’s Real was aiming to break Barcelona’s league record of 16 straight wins from 2010-11 under Pep Guardiola.

Adding to their strong finish to last season, Real had won the first four rounds and tied Barcelona’s milestone by beating Espanyol on Sunday.

It was a mixed night for Sergio Ramos as the Real defender featured in both goals at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Ramos first helped Villarreal go in front in the first half injury time when he blocked Manuel Trigueros’ shot with his arm, allowing Bruno Soriano to score the resulting penalty kick.

But Ramos made amends three minutes after the restart when he leapt higher than two defenders to head Madrid level.

Neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Gareth Bale looked at their sharpest after both Real forwards were rested against Espanyol.

Bale was substituted with 20 minutes left, and Ronaldo wasted a chance to secure a late win when he shot into the arms of goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.

“I am happy with my players,” Real coach Zidane said. “I’m not going to talk about records. We are going to rest and think about the next match.”

Real, though remain two points clear at the top of the table after rivals Barcelona later drew 1-1 with defending champions beat Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

That result leaves Atletico fourth, a point behind third place Barcelona, with Sevilla leading the chase of Real a further point ahead.

And there was more bed news for Barcelona with the news Lionel Messi will be sidelined for the next three weeks due to a groin strain.

Messi gingerly walked off the Camp Nou pitch in the 58th minute, just moments before Atletico substitutes Angel Correa and Fernando Torres went on and linked up to equalise.

“With Leo Messi out, football loses, we all lose,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We now have to look for different solutions. Of course we are stronger with Messi, but we are still strong enough.”

Barcelona were in control after Ivan Rakitic broke through Atletico’s staunch defence in the 41st with a header from Andres Iniesta’s cross.

But the match quickly changed course when Messi came up lame following a sprint to fight for a ball with Diego Godin.

The Argentina star grimaced as he touched his right thigh, and after walking gingerly for a few minutes, he sat on the turf, pulled out his shin guards and unlaced his boots.

Arda Turan hastily warmed up and rushed on to replace him, but sensing an opportunity to transform the game, Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent on Torres and Correa.

And the move immediately paid off when they caught Barcelona napping after a foul and Torres’ glancing touch of a pass left Correa clear to rifle a low shot off the post and into the net in the 61st minute.

“The key to the match was the change we made at the start of the second half,” Simeone said. “We defended very well throughout, but in the second half we were able to be protagonists as well.”

Elsewhere, Iago Aspas’ penalty three minutes from time secured Celta Vigo their first win of the season as they edged Sporting Gijon.

Hugo Mallo put Celta ahead in the 66th before Duje Cop equalised with a spot kick of his own.

Real Sociedad beat Las Palmas 4-1, while Athletic Bilbao recorded a 2-1 win over Granada.