More jeers for Real Madrid after home loss to Villarreal
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By TALES AZZONI
MADRID (AP) Another poor result, another round of jeers for Real Madrid.
Madrid's struggles in the Spanish league continued when it lost to Villarreal 1-0 on Saturday, infuriating fans at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Pablo Fornals netted Villarreal's winner in the 87th minute, prompting loud boos by the home crowd who three days ago saw their team draw with second-division club Numancia 2-2 in the Copa del Rey.
"There is no explanation for this," coach Zinedine Zidane said. "We did everything we could, we had plenty of chances, but the ball just didn't go in. It's a difficult moment for us. It's tough for the players, they gave their best. We didn't deserve this result."
But Madrid has gone four matches without a win.
"We have endured negative results recently, but we know that we can change this situation by winning again," Zidane said. "We have to start winning, and winning convincingly, then things will change."
The defending champion was 16 points behind league leader Barcelona at the competition's halfway point. The Catalan club can increase the gap when it plays at Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Madrid, which has a game in hand, is only fourth in the standings, behind Valencia and Atletico Madrid.
"In our position we have to look to qualify for the Champions League next year," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "This has to be our goal for the rest of the season, because 16 points is far away."
Zidane's team has already lost more points (22) than in its entire title-winning campaign last season (21).
Villarreal moved to fifth place with the victory, its first ever at the Bernabeu.
"We knew we could make history," Villarreal coach Javier Calleja said. "We played a very smart match."
The host had most of the chances under steady rain. Cristiano Ronaldo, who was also jeered, hit the crossbar from a free kick, and he nearly scored from close range just before halftime but for a brilliant save by goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.
Gareth Bale had a goal disallowed for offside early in the first half.
Fornals' goal came after a great save by Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas following a counterattack. Fornals picked up the loose ball just outside the area and chipped it over the goalkeeper for the stunning winner.
It was Madrid's third home loss this season. It has won only half of its games at the Bernabeu.
Second-place Atletico Madrid overcame Diego Costa's absence to beat Eibar 1-0 and move within six points of leader Barcelona.
Kevin Gameiro, Costa's substitute, scored in the first half and Jan Oblak played solidly in goal for the rest of the match to secure Atletico its fourth straight win in all competitions.
"We played the type of match we needed," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.
Costa was suspended because of a red card for celebrating too close to the fans in the previous game.
Third-place Valencia took advantage of an embarrassing blunder by goalkeeper Ruben to defeat Deportivo La Coruna 2-1 and remain two points behind Atletico.
Ruben wasn't able to stop a weak first-half shot by Goncalo Guedes, letting the ball roll underneath him.
Ruben couldn't do much to stop Valencia's second goal, however, as Rodrigo's shot from outside the area deflected off a defender.
The host's lone goal came with a just few minutes left.
It was the third win in a row for Valencia in all competitions. It is eight points behind Barcelona and eight in front of fourth-place Madrid.
Kenyan forward Michael Olunga scored a hat trick to lead promoted Girona to a 6-0 trouncing of last-place Las Palmas.
Las Palmas could have left the bottom of the standings with a draw but it never challenged at Montilivi Stadium, seeing its winless streak reach seven matches in all competitions.
Las Palmas has only 11 points from 19 matches.
Christian Stuani opened the scoring for Girona from a penalty kick midway through the first half, and the other five came in a 22-minute span in the second period.
More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
Updated January 13, 2018