BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Gareth Bale had a bittersweet debut for Real Madrid on Saturday following his world record transfer, as he scored but couldn't prevent his new team from drawing 2-2 at Villarreal .
The Yellow Submarine's bright first half was rewarded with a goal for Ruben Cani in the 21st minute but Wales winger Bale, an £85.3million capture from Tottenham, equalised in the 39th minute.
His debut lasted just over an hour and his departure passed the spotlight back to Cristiano Ronaldo, the player he replaced as the world's most expensive, who fortuitously put the visitors in front in the 64th minute.
The home side deservedly earned a point, though, when their own former Spurs wideman Giovani dos Santos struck in the 70th minute. Villarreal started on the front foot and sloppy defending from Pepe allowed Jonathan Pereira to force a near-post save from Diego Lopez. Dani Carvajal then had to rescue Real two minutes later as Giovani closed in.
Bale's first contribution of note came in the 10th minute when he lofted a ball across the penalty area and Nacho set up a chance for Ronaldo, who was penalised for a foul on Mateo Musacchio. Lopez made a brilliant, and vital, save after a corner was flicked on to the unmarked Pereira beyond the far post, though he was aided by the forward's poor first touch.
Ronaldo - still "the boss" at free-kicks, according to Bale - pulled rank over a 17th-minute opportunity but shot over. Villarreal took a deserved lead, though, when Bruno Soriano played the ball into the box and Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Carvajal were all drawn to Pereira. He turned the ball on to Cani whose bobbling shot, possibly deflected by the lunging Ramos, beat Lopez.
Carvajal broke up another dangerous attack sparked by the livewire Pereira and Lopez continued to bail out his team with a superb double save from Pereira after Javier Aquino's delicious backheel. Ramos' header from Isco's corner was saved and Ronaldo wasted a glorious headed chance after he was picked out by Ramos' long pass.
But Bale leveled the scores in the 39th minute, sliding in to steer home Carvajal's low cross after Luka Modric had expertly sent the full-back into the box. Ronaldo shot over and Bale could not find the right cross after turning superbly away from Jaume Costa, and it remained all square at the break.
Villarreal appealed for a penalty early in the second half when Giovani's low cross deflected from the foot to the hand of Nacho, but any award would have been harsh. Bale's 25-yard shot was deflected over, though a goal kick was given, but Villarreal should have taken the lead soon afterwards.
Giovani played in Pereira and, although he was kept at bay by Nacho, he squared the ball to Costa who, with only Carvajal facing him, somehow side-footed wide of a gaping goal from eight yards. Bale was withdrawn on the hour and Ronaldo wasted no time in reasserting his status as the main man, though his goal owed much to good fortune.
Karim Benzema's shot was saved by Sergio Asenjo and, from the rebound, Ronaldo hit a shot against Musacchio, the ball ricocheting off Ronaldo in his follow-through and finding the net despite Asenjo's scrabbling efforts on the line.
The lead lasted only six minutes as Diego Lopez parried Cani's drive but, although he got a hand to Giovani's powerful angled follow-up, he could not keep the ball out. Bale's replacement Angel di Maria curled a good shot just wide and Modric shot over after a sloppy flick from Cani gifted him possession.
Di Maria was denied a penalty after Musacchio's clumsy challenge, the Argentina winger going to ground easily but surely impeded. Cani's fierce long-range shot forced another exceptional save from Lopez and Ronaldo was similarly denied by Asenjo at the other end as the match remained all square.