It didn't look good at the beginning. It didn't improve much throughout the first half. But the team played much better in the second half and even had a couple of gilt-edged chances to get the first away win of the season. In the end we return home with a reasonably satisfying point from Cornella. The team gets a well deserved break of two weeks. The next game is against Real Betis at El Madrigal on Saturday November 19th.
The biggest positive of the game was the performance of Hernán Pérez..
Garrido ringed in the changes for this game. We recouped Marco Ruben back for this game. He started up front with Hernán Pérez, De Guzman and Joan Oriol (!!*g*a*s*p!!) as a left winger. Borja and Bruno lined-up at double pivot and Mario, Musacchio, Gonzalo and Catalá lined up in the defence.
Both teams had an early opportunity each but nothing really dangerous for either keeper. Espanyol had a decent shout for a penalty when there was some contact between Musacchio and Álvaro inside the penalty area but nothing was given.
After about 5 minutes into the game, Espanyol took control of the midfield. Villarreal was very disciplined in defence and they have given up some of their possession in exchange for solidity at the back. But this type of a tactical game-plan is new to Villarreal. The defence wasnt always convincing but Sergio García who led the line for los Pericos isnt the best out there either.
Around minute 12 Hector Moreno scored off of a freekick but it was waved off for offside, rightfully so. The Mexican center-back was clearly offside.
The counterattacking ways of Villarreal weren't effective at all in the first half. They did have the odd break but the game was largely played in the midfield. Espanyol kept more of the ball. Espanyol didn't do much with all the possession barring some wayward shots from distance. Both GK's had as calm a half as they could have had.
Hernán Pérez was the pick of the players for Villarreal in the 1st half. Borja looked sharp on occasions but he didn't have much possession during the half to make an impact.
To summarize, the positives at end of the 1st half were:
- We did not concede an early goal
- we did not concede a goal late in the first half
- No new injuries and
- Hernán Pérez
Marco Ruben looked alone and isolated upfront. Excuse me if you read this line in the recaps of other games. It has been the same story ever since we switched to 4-2-3-1.
After some hairy moments early in the game, Villarreal settled down to their brightest phase of the game. Hernán Pérez's pace caused a lot of problems to the tiring Espanyol defence.
In one such mazy runs of Hernán Pérez into the box of Espanyol, Marco Ruben couldnt control his shot from 2 yards out into an empty net. That was the clearest opportunity for either side in the game. Pérez had another such run late in the game where he shimmied past three defenders before shooting an acute angle shot just wide.
Midfielder Forlín got sent-off for a second bookable offence reducing the home team to 10 men. Both sides ringed in a few changes by this point. At one point in the game when Ángel came on, there were two right backs (Ángerl and Mario) and two left-backs (Catalá and Oriol) on the pitch for Villarreal. Ángel played in the double-pivot, something that I havent seen in a long long time.
Being a man down, Espanyol tried to protect the point as the game wound down. Garrido sent in Joselu for Marco Ruben in added time, not sure if meant to try and sneak in a winner or if it was time wasting.Florian LeJeune also made his debut with first team for Villarreal.
Man of the Match : Hernán Pérez
A point away from home is not the worst result. While our 2nd half performance was worth a goal and probably the three points, this team is still missing a lot of its regular players. It was a good performance from a team which sacrificed some of its attacking flair to cut down on the defensive lapses that have been the bane of this team so far in this season.
The team gets a well deserved rest for a couple of weeks before the next game against Real Betis at El Madrigal on Saturday November 19th at 1800 CET. I expect the team to play a more attacking game there to win.
Hernán Pérez is the only national team call-up. He will go represent Paraguay in the CONMEBOL World Cup 2014 qualifiers. Marcos Senna and Javi Camuñas should be back in the line-up for the Real Betis game.
FT 0-0 (HT 0-0)
Espanyol: Didac Vila 41', Forlín 64' & 75' (sent off)
Villarreal: De Guzman 63', Gonzalo 72', Bruno 88'