Samuel Chukwueze came off to bench in the second half to win the penalty that helped Villarreal salvage a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at the Estadio de la Cerámica.
Madrid hadn’t won at Villarreal since 2017 but that looked to change after Mariano Diaz headed home fit-again Dani Carvajal’s cross to give Madrid the lead after just two minutes.
Villarreal created little of note and lacked spark and creativity in the final third until manager Unai Emery turned to Super Eagles winger Chukwueze for the missing qualities on the half hour mark.
It proved to be an inspired decision as the Nigerian immediately set about harassing the Madrid back line with his trademark trickery and penetrative runs.
One such run was illegally halted by Thibaut Courtois in the Madrid goal, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.
Spain striker Gerard Moreno fresh from scoring against Germany during the international break, stepped up to send the spot-kick unerringly beyond Courtois to ensure the wait continues for a Madrid win at the Estadio de la Cerámica.
Villarreal remain second after the shared spoils although Atletico Madrid who have three games in hand can overtake them with victory against Barcelona in the late kickoff. Madrid are fourth.