Villarreal came out in a 4-4-2 on a sunny day in El Madrigal. Almost immediately we had a talking point, as Cani ran through four Sociedad players and was taken down by Mikel Gonzalez. Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco, not one of our favorites, showed only a yellow. Was Mikel the last man? Probably, but sending off a player for a foul committed well outside the box in the first two minutes would have been harsh.
The Submarine controlled the first twenty minutes, though the Real defense was able to keep any real attacking chances at bay. Nilmar looked quick but rusty; just as against Napoli earlier in the week, his first touch let him down when he could have been in with only the keeper to beat. Ruben shot wide from a promising position, Senna had a couple of shots wide of the target as well. And the back line was hardly being tested as counterattacks were being broken up in midfield.
But then, the momentum shifted and Real Sociedad began to create some opportunities themselves. Griezmann was called back for one offside which looked very tight, Gonzalo intecepted a through ball which would have sent him in alone again, and Zapata was called on to make a key intervention on Griezmann as well. Villarreal was turning the ball over in midfield too often.
In the last part of the half there were a couple of interesting happenings. Villarreal had the ball in the net but the goal was waved off for a foul on Bravo by Ruben--a correct call given that there was some small contact--and right after that Griezmann had the ball in our net but was ruled offside, correctly this time.
Villarreal should have scored when Borja struck a hard first-time shot from a fine pass (by Angel, I think) but Bravo stopped it.
HT Villarreal 0-0 Real Sociedad
At halftime Villarreal had been the better of the two sides, but not substantially. And given our defensive frailties a goal for our visitors was always a possibility, and so it proved seven minutes into the half. Carlos Vela's through ball found Mikel Aranburu in the box on our right side near the byline. Gonzalo defended the cross, but Aranburu instead brought the ball back toward goal himself. No one went with him and he put a strong shot past the helpless Diego Lopez.
This was cruel, especially considering that shortly before that Villarreal had somehow contrived to miss a golden opportunity, Borja trying a pass to Ruben when it looked as though he could have slotted the ball home himself.
And for the next 10 minutes Villarreal seemed shattered. Then, they were handed a lifeline when Gorka Elustondo clearly hacked Marcos Senna as he controlled the ball in our half of the pitch--a stupid foul to give away, and the referee gave him his second yellow card.
Garrido threw caution to the wind over the next ten minutes, bringing on Camunas for Angel (who was limping, a worrisome development) and then DeGuzmán and Joselu for Nilmar and Oriol. And almost immediately Villarreal had equalized, with Camuñas controlling the ball on the left wing, finding Joselu inside the area with a pass, and he in turn made a great pass to the onrushing Ruben, who slotted the ball home.
By now Villarreal were playing a three-man back line (Gonzalo, Zapata and Bruno) which was worrying given Gonzalo's lack of pace, but Zapata broke up a couple of Sociedad chances. Meanwhile, the linesman stationed on our attacking right was having a mare, awarding throwins instead of corners, or throwins to the wrong team. And Marco Ruben could have (should have) had a penalty when he was hipchecked in the area by a defender, but it was more of a cheap shot than anything else and was ignored by everyone.
With the man advantage Cani was running at the Sociedad defense to try to open up space on our left, but wasn't winning any sympathy or much else from referee Mallenco, and Borja was playing on the right with DeGuzman but had gone curiously quiet. Cani just put too much fizz on a lovely diagonal ball DeGuz couldn't get to; a shot form the Canadian was nicely saved by Bravo, we had headers just over the bar from corners, but as time wound down it really didn't seem as though we were going to score.
In injury time we had to see off a Real Sociedad threat in between their time-wasting substitutions and the like, but Griezmann shot wide at the near post. And from the resulting attack all we could do was cross the ball into the area for Ruben. That didn't work when the teams were 11v11, seemed a strange tactic to try now.
FT Villarreal 1-1 Real Sociedad
So, what now? As I write this we are just out of the relegation spots on goal difference, but do we really expect to take points in Navarra next week? I'd say Racing (at home to Real Sociedad) and Sporting (at home to Espanyol) have to feel they can pass us if we lose.
This team is far too talented to be where it is. There were some good sensations today, yes, we could have won, but we didn't. Sometimes when things aren't going well you have to make a change. Yes, we could've had a penalty today, yes, we had some decisions go against us. And I will say we can't complain that Garrido was too defensive--he threw on attackers like nobody's business.
But, apart from the excellent play for the goal, how often did we actually use the personnel we had out there effectively? I was astonished to see Marcos Senna go 90 minutes, even more astonished to see Hernán Pérez not brought in (though I admit, Camuñas and Joselu combined on the goal).
We now have 15 points from 15 games. With 23 games left, even if we were to win every home game remaining (11 of them) we'd only have 48 points, so we'd need 15 points from the remaining 10 away matches just to get to 63 and a possible Europa League place. Probably not too likely a new coach would give us that much of a bump.
But we're staring relegation in the face.
Once before (Valverde) I recall the Xerez debacle (in October) resulted in Sr. Roig denying a change was coming. We've had that in October this year. Results in the league actually improved a bit, but then the Copa loss to Celta--one of the poorest games I've ever seen a team play--ultimately got Valverde canned.
Based on that timeline, I expect Garrido to remain as coach for now, but his time is winding down. And with a tricky match at Mirandes, followed by Osasuna, I don't expect it to be a quiet or easy week in Vila-real. Endavant, everyone.