We still miss you, Santi. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
A decent crowd at the Rosaleda, lots of scarves and parkas in evidence, and a few Villarreal supporters whose yellow stood out easily among the various shades of blue.
Villarreal began by giving the ball away before Malaga actually began playing defense, and then Malaga nearly scored at the other end. Not an auspicious beginning.
It got worse when in the fifth minute Villarreal conceded a corner and Santi Cazorla sent over a nice one that was headed home by Jeremy Toulalan. Why he was unmarked I have no idea, as he was right in the middle of the box. However, the yellow team didn't seem terribly shaken and began to fashion some chances. In the 16th minute the Submarine drew even, with Bruno and Borja leading a direct assault from midfield that ended with one of those trademark Borja passes to an unmarked Ruben on his right, and the Argentinian fired the ball home.
Shortly later some controversy as Ruben ran in to the box and took a tumble after DeMichelis's intervention. I didn't think it a penalty at the time, but not everyone agreed with me.
Villarreal was holding its own but was always susceptible to attacks down its right, and from one of those Isco found Rondon, whose shot was parried but Isco, following up. put in the rebound.
HT Malaga 2-1 Villarreal
No doubt Villarreal would have chances to come, but our right side was looking lightweight, with Angel at times showing his lack of game experience. And offensively we weren't exposing Malaga's lack of pace very well, with Hernan Perez often playing too wide to offer much support to Ruben.
And the second half was interesting, but failed to budge the scoreline. There was a talking point in the 54th minute, when DeGuzman was replaced by our chaval, Moises. And you know, Moises didn't do badly at all. Malaga always looked dangerous down the wing, while Villarreal was passing the ball around swiftly but still wasn't giving Ruben a lot of help up front.
Marcos Senna came on for Angel and Villarreal continued to dominate proceedings, and in the 75th minute were given a golden opportunity when Toulalan received his second yellow of the match and was sent off. I'm not even sure it was a foul, really, but this mistake nearly made up for the non-penalty call in the first half. Borja sent the resulting free kick against the crossbar (Willy Caballero just getting his fingertips to it) and it seemed maybe we would be able to tie it up or even win.
But it wasn't to be. Villarreal passed the ball around too much rather than play it into the box--the old force-field we've been talking about around the opposition's penalty box was too strong! And meanwhile Garrido waited and waited to get Joselu in to the match (in part because the play was flowing back and forth and we were passing the ball around, so the game wouldn't stop). Finally Joselu came on with five minutes to go; by now Malaga were wasting time, their keeper having received a yellow and then sub Buonanotte capped off a fine slaloming run around around our defenders by theatrically falling in the box and receiving a yellow card for simulation. Shades of Sergio Busquets.
Four minutes of injury time were played without much happening, though why Diego Lopez went to join the line for a free kick when there was still a full minute of injury time seemed strange to me. No need to be that desperate at the time, and all that happened was not much.
There wasn't that much difference between the two teams and Villarreal should have come out with at least a point from this, but that lack of cutting edge up front was all too evident.
FT Malaga 2-1 Villarreal
A frustrating result. We can debate the penalty not given in the first half, certainly, but overall we didn't threaten Malaga's defense often enough to bring home the point we probably deserved. Still, the league table is quite tight and we are only 4 points out of 7th place. If we can get Cani and Nilmar back soon that will help, as I think with either of them today we would have come home with something. Endavant!