Madrid held at Villarreal before PSG; Bale makes rare start

Sports

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish leader Real Madrid was held by Villarreal to 0-0 on Saturday in a match that featured Gareth Bale playing his first minutes in more than five months.

The draw left Madrid four points clear of second-placed Sevilla as the pace-setter continues to struggle without injured striker Karim Benzema, and their Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain just three days away.

Bale had not played for club or country since his brief appearance for Wales on Sept. 1 in a friendly against Finland. Before that, he made three appearances for Madrid in August before a series of injuries, and a COVID-19 infection, ensured he fell out of Carlo Ancelotti’s rotation in favor of younger players such as Vinícius Júnior and Marco Asensio.

With Benzema recovering from a left hamstring pull, Ancelotti gave Bale the nod to play as his striker. Bale needed almost the entire first half to finally get involved, but once he did, he showed the same ability he always had to produce scoring chances.

Only the goalkeeping of Gerónimo Rulli stopped Bale on three occasions, including one shot be pushed onto his bar in the 56th minute. Late substitute Luka Jovic almost grabbed a stoppage-time winner on the break when he sent his chipped shot onto the bar.

Madrid faces a trip to play PSG on Tuesday with only one win in its last four games and doubts if Benzema will be ready.

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