Real Madrid, that big club from the big city, came calling tonight. And as it turns out, they brought their officiating crew as well. See, only the big clubs can afford things like that. Us "small clubs" simply can't afford to make sure we have the pichichi by bringing our own crew of guys in red shirts to the match! Anyhow, it wasn't a terrible match from Villarreal, but it wasn't spectacular either. The scoreline was a bit unfair in my book, but admittedly a 1-2 final would have probably been appropriate.
Villarreal had a couple of changes to their typical lineup on the night. Nilmar started on the bench in favor of Ruben, and in the back it was Capdevila, Musacchio, Marchena, and Mario. The midfield saw Senna starting and Cazorla on the bench.
Within the first minute, girly-man C. Ronaldo had earned the corner, and the pressure was already building on Villarreal.
The atmosphere was festive for the Yellows’ final home match of the season, in what has oft-been called Villarreal’s best season ever. While I probably would not agree with that, it has been a terrific season, filled with some high-highs. The boys in amarillo can definitely be proud of what they have done this term.
Ruben scored a brilliant side-footed goal in the 7th, only to have it called off for a very high offsides call.
Villarreal had an incredible chance in the 16th, with Rossi breaking through off a give and go with Ruben, and beating Casillas to the line. His cross back towards Cani was a bit slow, though, and it was well-cleared. Off the resulting corner, a break for Madrid, and Marcelo scored easily on a one-v-one versus Lopez.
Ronaldo had his second decent chance at putting a shot on net in the 22nd minute, when Mario fouled Kaka just outside of the area. And he easily put it in past a hapless Diego Lopez. Disgusting. Not the way Villarreal was hoping to finish out the season. And Ronaldo, of course, couldn’t help but tell everyone how great he was. Someone should really break his nose, mess up that fancy face of his. Maybe take out a tooth or two.
Villarreal’s midfield was not clicking on the night, and little passes frequently found themselves to the foot of a Madrid midfielder ready to start the counter. The crowd was taken out of it a good bit with the second goal, and Villarreal were going to have to find something special to pull themselves back in the match. Villarreal did respond by building pressure, but they could not seem to connect with a striker in the final third to create a real chance at any pressure.
Villarreal were really demonstrating something they have developed with Borja, Cani, and Cazorla this year, the art of the "very close" ball treatment. If I had not watched it consistently throughout the year, I may have thought of this as a failure to spread the ball out wide and try and force things through the middle too much - but it clearly seems to be central to Garrido’s plans. The "very close" ball, as I like to call it, involves these passes into tiny spaces, frequently to another midfielder with a player just behind him. This is a little different, from what I can tell, from Pellegrini’s style, which usually involved passes into more open space. This type of passing game could be beautiful, productive, and very frustrating to a team trying to defend it, but the problem has been that our midfield has just not been able to hold the possession quite enough to make it a dangerous style of play. A little more ball control, and perhaps a little less fatigue, and it could be a lot of fun to watch.
Villarreal went into half a bit down, but not necessarily too much so, considering that the match really did not matter. But you know the team wanted to give their fans a good send off for the season, and a heavy-handed defeat to Madrid was not the way to do it. I, at least, had some confidence that they would come out
But they turned things around quickly in the second half. In the 50th, it was Mario who was sent to the touchline with a break down the right side, and Mario calmly slotted it to Cani who, to be honest, pretty much just bundled it home with a touch. But it was 1-2, and the comeback was (hopefully) on!
Villarreal continued to play well, creating some pressure in the box. Unfortunately, the official turned a blind eye to just about any foul committed by Madrid, and those fouls were legion. When Borja voiced his displeasure, it was he who picked up the yellow.
A dangerous moment in the 56th, when a thoughtful clearance from Diego Lopez lead to an open goal, and a chance for Xabi Alonso to relive some Liverpool magic. His shot, though, went over the bar.
And then, Villarreal literally got in a fight with the linesman. The linesman actually bumped chests with Cani, and Cani responded by pushing him - lucky not to pick up a red for that one, although he will probably face a suspension. I did not see what happened, but apparently Cani claimed he was being pulled off by the official, and Marchena had some ugly words for the linesman. Cani then went down and got in a tuff with the linesman, who was yelling some things probably not fit to print - if only i could read lips in Spanish!
After that, things really got feisty. Ronaldo threw his backside into Marchena, who made the most of it, and it was quickly becoming clear that the referee had failed miserably in getting an early handle on the match. He was letting EVERYTHING go, regardless of the brutality of the attack. One would not look at the statistics and understand, had they not watched the match, because Real Madrid were being called for more fouls than Villarreal. But the thing was, Real Madrid was fouling WAY more often than Villarreal was.
A shot of Cani’s linesman in the 65th showed that Cani better watch himself as he exits El Madrigal - the man had bloodlust in his eyes!
Cazorla came on for Ruben in the -- no, wait, make that Ruben Cani -- in the 69th. It was originally to be Ruben, but Cani had sprained his ankle on the preceding attack, and Cani was done for the day.
Capdevila picked up a yellow in the 70th. Which is of course almost funny considering the times he was hacked and fouled today without a call. He earned the yellow, but it was Granero who he took down, and Granero has earned about 3 yellows on the day.
In the 72nd, a questionable non-offsides call (anyone see that one coming from Cani’s linesman?) led to a good chance for Oezil, but Lopez was there to slide the ball to safety. Lopez then continued Villarreal’s anti-Cani’s-linesman barrage, letting him know how he felt about his offsides calls.
In the 73rd, Villarreal decided to go all out, and Nilmar came on for Marcos Senna, to set up a 4-3-3. This was an interesting turn of events considering that 4 minutes earlier, Garrido had wanted to bring Ruben off in favor of Cazorla, presumably setting up bringing Nilmar on for Cani or for Senna, and thus remaining in a 4-4-2. Instead, the 4-3-3 was in force, and Villarreal hoped to make Madrid feel a bit of that Barcelona-esque pain that Madrid loves so much.
[Have to point out - in the 76th, a 10-second shot of Marcos Senna in his tighty-whities. A little unexpected.]
The match calmed down a bit, actually, after Villarreal’s substitution. At least, until Villarreal had a corner in the 84th...Rossi’s second cross off the corner simply rolled across the front of goal, the goal-mouth gaping. Villarreal had not given up the fight, but every chance like that which went wanting made it seem more and more like Villarreal would not be able to make the final face-saving effort.
In the 85th, Bruno got a yellow. Not much else to say about that. And then in a surprising move, Villarreal substituted Cicinho (yes, not a typo) for Marco Ruben.
Diego Lopez showed that he really wanted Ronaldo to break the Spanish record, passing the ball directly to him in the 90th minute, but a recovery from Villarreal’s defense prevented a second goal for him on the night.
But his goal came a minute later, when a Marchena foul just outside the box again gave the spot-kick specialist the opportunity to show off his skills. Diego Lopez could only give a bemused smile, as there was simply nothing he could do about it.
And that was it for the night. Villarreal were not outplayed, but a combination of exquisite finishing from Real Madrid and some horrendous officiating led to what was really a comfortable Real Madrid victory. I do not expect Garrido to be too worried with the match, although I do expect him to pick up a fine because surely he will attack the officials (verbally) after the match. Only a short conclusion for me tonight, because I have to take off. One more match to go on the season - let’s close it out with a victory, eh guys?