Villarreal entered the match against Real Zaragoza with the hopes of picking up 3 points and trying to squeeze their way back into the La Liga discussion. El Madrigal was perhaps the bet thing Villarreal had going for them, as the club's front line was decimated by injury. Marco Ruben and Nilmar were forced to watch from the stands, and Villarreal only had Camuñas, Rossi, and Gerard Bordas available to lead the charge. The Yellow Submarine started in a 4-4-2:
The club started off in possession in front of a healthy crowd in El Madrigal. Villarreal had a momentary chance when a good move from Camuñas into the box in the 5th minute lead to a short cross from Cani, but Borja’s shot off the pass was blocked by a fellow Villarreal player.
The first 10 minutes saw a good bit of low-key play, with neither keeper facing a realistic challenge. That all changed in the 11th, though, when a turnover in front of the box gave Zaragoza two dangerous opportunities, including a shot by Luis Garcia that required Lopez to be at his best to parry away.
In the 13th, Villarreal created a turnover, and some excellent passing between Cani, Borja, and Camunas lead to a dangerous shot for Camunas, and almost a great rebound for Rossi, but the keeper recovered just in time. Villarreal were starting to find a rhythm, and their attacks were finding holes in the Zaragozan back line. The yellow squad kept tremendous pressure on Zaragoza for the next two minutes, and it began to feel that a goal was coming. Finishing that run of play in the 17th, beautiful quick passes beginning in the back led to a Valero through-ball for Rossi, but his shot hit the side of the net.
In the 22nd minute, Borja put a pass through that perhaps Nilmar could have gotten to within a few yards of using his speed, but the pass was for Mario, and although the ball was clean through into the box, Mario couldn’t even get in the same zip code of the ball. But the good news was that Villarreal were pushing forward, and a goal still seemed to be in the offing.
De Guzmán got a tricky shot on goal in the 27th, when everyone was looking for the through ball, but the Zaragoza keeper Roberto was well-placed and handled the shot with ease. Unfortunately for Villarreal, Roberto seemed to be matching his 8+ million euro price tag (although no one on the pitch quite knew how Zaragoza managed to pay his fee).
Villarreal were denied a great free kick opportunity in the 32nd,when De Guzmán was taken down just outside the 18, but the official saw no need to blow the whistle. A couple of minutes later, De Guzmán had another decent shot on goal, but his shot lacked the pace and placement to trouble Roberto. Following this stretch of play, Villarreal began to lose their momentum. They had dominated in possession, but failed to finish.
And in the 35th, Villarreal paid for their failure to close out on their opportunities, when a beautiful one-two for Luis Garcia (perhaps controlled with an arm rather than a shoulder) put Garcia through behind Zapata with an easy shot across the goal and past Diego Lopez. Suddenly, Villarreal were desperate to put a ball in the net before halftime.
In the 39th, Villarreal were given their opportunity, as something you never see - a penalty on a corner kick! - was given to Villarreal. Rossi lined up and made his typical run up, but slowed too much before he put the ball past the keeper. Not only was the goal disallowed, but Rossi was given a yellow for his efforts. He was given another chance, though, and WOW. A panenka on the follow up from Rossi off the under side of the cross bar! The score was 1-1, as Rossi tied Forlan for the most goals in Villarreal history.
Villarreal had 63 percent of the possession through the first half, and finally had something to show for it. They began eagerly to look forward a halftime break. But then things went horribly wrong. Following a turnover from Villarreal in the Zaragoza half, a long ball for Berrera found him one-on-one with Lopez, and Lopez could do nothing to stop it. It was1-2 before the first half ended, and Villarreal’s defense was looking shaky.
Halftime found Villarreal down by a score at home against Zaragoza - a situation that should never occur. The club started off brightly, with flowing possession, some attack from the wings, and incisive passes finding players in the box. The problem was, though, that Villarreal could do nothing with those passes early, and the club started to lose momentum. A few decisive lapses from the defense, and Zaragoza found themselves with two of the easier goals they will have this season. Villarreal were very lucky to have scored the one that they did manage, when they were awarded a soft penalty. Rossi’s panenka felt good when it happened, but then following the second goal, you realized how dangerous such a cheeky move was. Had he hit the front of the crossbar, rather than the underside, Villarreal would find themselves down two goals, and would be very unsure about taking anything from the match.
Villarreal started well in the second half, but shockingly failed to equalize, when Cani’s blazer from the 6-yard box hit the underside of the cross bar, and bounced out. Apparently the crossbar on this side of the pitch is a little less forgiving!
The second half had the feeling of a recurrent Villarreal nightmare. Zaragoza were beginning to block up in the box in an effort to keep the scoreline as it was for the remainder of the match, a situation that Villarreal is rarely ever able to do anything about. In the 51st, Cani found himself surrounded by seven defenders. And a minute later, Zaragoza began their delay tactics. It became clear very quickly that Villarreal needed to attack hard and fast and get an early goal to prevent a slow, frustrating finish to the match.
An amazing move from Catala in the 55th found the maligned left back through two defenders and one-on-one with Roberto, but his shot went right at the keeper, and another excellent chance was squandered. By the 60th, Villarreal were starting to look a little uncertain, and were finding difficulty creating anything that could put Zaragoza’s goal in danger.
Villarreal decided to take the offensive in the 63rd, and brought Hernán Perez off the bench to replace Zapata, who had been largely responsible for the first goal. Villarreal now had 3 in the back, and had moved into a 3-5-2, dropping Bruno back into a second central defensive position when needed.
In the 68th, a cross directly at where Zapata would have been was just cleared away by Musacchio, before it would have landed on the foot of a Zaragoza attacker. Villarreal were lucky to be in the match whatsoever.
Villarreal had every opportunity in the 72nd, though - and twice! - both from Rossi’s boot. Each shot was pushed just wide by Roberto, but Villarreal were only awarded a corner on the first one. It was beginning to feel certain that this match was going to end at 1-2.
An acrobatic dive from Diego Lopez in the 76th saved the match from becoming a laugher, but things were feeling decidedly down for Villarreal. The yellow club was really beginning to look desperate in the 77th, when Gerard Bordas, who feels a bit like an afterthought this season, came on from Jonathan De Guzmán, as Villarreal put a third striker on the pitch.
Zaragoza breathed a bit of life into Villarreal in the 80th, though, when Lanzaro was given his second booking after taking down Rossi. Villarreal responded by shifting into a 3-4-3, bringing Senna on for Catala, and moving Bruno permanently into left back. The lineup for the last 10 minutes looked something like:
The free kick from Rossi in the 82nd following Lanzaro’s second yellow was biting, but again, Roberto was up to the challenge, and Villarreal continued to see the chance of points slip further and further away. Clearly, Roberto had won the day's battle against star Giuseppe.
Finally, a corner in the 84th delivered by Senna found the head of Hernán Perez for a looping header over the head of Roberto. Villarreal then had six minutes to go to score a third and salvage a win out of the debacle that took place on the pitch. Of course, the yellow side was not beyond giving Zaragoza another lead, and were shockingly given a break when the Zaragoza striker shot an inch wide in the 85th from point-blank range.
Zaragoza’s time wasting came in full force as the minutes were winding down, and the Aragonese side were looking for every opportunity to walk out of El Madrigal with a point. Villarreal did not give up, though, and surely had pulled out the 3 points when, in the 88th, Rossi made a spellbinding turn only to have his shot flicked wide by the fingertips of a diving Roberto! Surely, Rossi will be having his own Roberto-themed nightmares tonight!
Full Time: Villarreal 2-2 Real Zaragoza
The four minutes of stoppage time were not enough for Villarreal to gain the three points and a bit of self confidence. Instead, Villarreal will be questioning themselves, their tactics, and the rest of the season as they take their boots off today. The club is clearly a shell of its potential self at the moment, and although Juan Carlos Garrido seems secure, President Roig must be wondering how the season turned so quickly.
This is a match that, when Villarreal are fighting for 6th place at the end of the season, they will definitely look back on as an absolute wasted opportunity. For now, though, it means another week hovering near the relegation zone, and a group of players that seem to have no idea what they are playing for out on the pitch. And they will have a while to think about things, as the international break will give the yellow club two weeks to dwell on what might have been on Saturday evening in El Madrigal. The club will have to find a way to get mentally prepared for another tough stretch of games on the return from the break, with Getafe (A), Manchester City (A), and high-flying Levante (H) awaiting their return.