Villarreal fortunate to draw 1-1 with spunky Mirandés

Borja Valero--the man who saved Garrido's bacon, at least for a while (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Last weekend it was Marco Ruben, tonight it was Borja Valero who possibly saved Juan Carlos Garrido's job....for a bit longer. CD Mirandés showed why they are leading their Segunda B group--they played with heart and conviction, something the yellow side lacked.

Within five minutes Mirandes had smacked a shot off the post with keeper César beaten, and within the half-hour marke had taken a deserved lead. Coach Garrido put out a strange mixture of A and B-teamers who haven't played together much, and they looked like....a mixture of A and B-teamers who haven't played together much.

The crowd in the compact Mirandés stadium was jeering and whistling the attempts of the Villarreal squad to do anything other than pass the ball around to no effect along the halfway line. Experienced players like Marchena and Bruno, even, were giving the ball away through poor passing in midfield, while Camuñas, Peréz and Castellani were finding it hard to communicate with each other, never mind Joselu.

The rojillos' number 9, Alain, scored their goal from a cross after a throw-in; Cristián Zapata might have as well not been there, because he seemed surprised the cross came in and was on the wrong side of the striker. Mirandés wasted another golden opportunity when we gave the ball away on the edge of our own penalty area, and how Alain didn't score shortly before halftime only he knows. He was all alone in front of Cesar, rose to met a cross from the byline, and headed it straight down into Cesar's legs when it would have been far easier to score.

Villarreal hardly threatened, though the half ended with a crude challenge on Zapata followed by an arm to the face of Marchena as he tried to get to a ball in their penalty area. First time I've seen a ref blow for halftime with a player injured on the field, I think. As the teams left the field the body language of our players said it all--we had been outplayed and outcoached by a Segunda B team.

HT Mirandes 1-0 Villarreal

Not surprisingly, Garrido made a change at halftime, bringing on Borja Valero for Marchena. And the first 10-15 minutes or so reflected this change, because within 10 minutes we had four shots and a couple of other chances (in the entire first half we had one, I believe) and Borja was running the show. But then whatever spark he had brought died, and that man Alain nearly put one in the top corner after Bruno was booked for a bad foul in midfield.

Our next attack died when Mario gave the ball away through a poor pass (sound familiar?), then our defense stood around and let Mirandés pass the ball at will before one of their players skimmed a shot wide of César's goal--it could have gone anywhere. The home fans were loving it.

With just under 20 minutes left Mirandés had the ball in our net again, as two players played head tennis with the ball near our goal while our defenders (again) watched helplessly, but fortunately the linesman saw Lambarri's header came from an offside position and waved the goal off. Correctly so, but boy were we riding our luck.

Though we had occasionally put their keeper under pressure (had Joselu been a bit quicker he might've poked in a spilled rebound) we hardly threatened for long spells. More typical was what followed this let-off: Hernán Perez, who seemed to have given up on getting any help from his teammates and was trying to do it all himself, ended our next attack with a mishit cross, and then the next attack ended with a Mario pass to no one in particular. We looked totally at sea, and Garrido took off Peréz and brought on Nilmar. Well, why not.

As most of us watching surely felt the clock was winding down on the Garrido era, Villarreal won a throw down the left. Jaume Costa and Castellani (I think it was) played a nice bit of tight possession and found Borja, and a Mirandes defender tried to tackle the ball away from him and missed, creating space for Borja to shoot. And shoot he did, a low, hard bullet across the keeper and into the goal. And just like that, we found ourselves level. Totally unmerited, but football is a funny old game.

The remaining five minutes and three minutes of injury time were notable mostly for Villarreal's lack of interest in doing anything other than escaping with a lucky draw. Garrido brought on Marcos Gullon for Joselu in the 89th minute, signaling we were done trying to do anything in the attacking half, and while Mirandés tried to come forward, they had removed their two main goalscorers when they were trying to protect the lead. So, the game ended with Villarreal quite happy to get out of town with a draw.

FT Mirandés 1-1 Villarreal

Though the statistics were fairly even, our opponents had the better chances, for sure. Villarreal looked disjointed, disheveled and dispirited. When experienced players such as Zapata, Marchena, Musacchio and Bruno are being outplayed, something is clearly wrong. The younger players--Joselu, Castellani, Jaume Costa, Hernán Pérez--and new acquisition Camuñas all seemed more willing, but had little idea of how to play together, and lost interest as their one-on-one plays were easily defended.

The introduction of Borja Valero at halftime was an obvious move, and his quality lifted our game and provided a tying goal, but we were second best to Mirandés. Who, granted, were playing at home (I loved their little ground with all the advertising hoardings hanging down from the ceiling of the main stand--be sure to check out Lola's Resturant next time you're in Miranda de Ebro!), and, granted, look like a team on their way to the Segunda next season. I'll be surprised if they don't make it, because Carlos Pouso's men showed more attacking quality and spirit than several Segunda teams I've seen this season.

For that matter, the return leg will not be a pushover--based on tonight's display, there's little reason for optimism. And Osasuna, our opponents this weekend, crushed Almeria 3-1 down on the south coast today, so little reason to feel optimistic about that upcoming fixture either.

Surely things will have to change soon, we hope for the better--one way or another. Endavant!

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