Villarreal's journey in the "Group of Death" got off to a bad start tonight with a 2-0 loss to a dominant Bayern Munich, with goals from Toni Kroos and Rafinha in each half providing the margin of victory.
It was always going to be a tough game, especially without the suspended Borja Valero, and Coach Garrido opened up in a 4-3-1-2, with Jonathan de Guzman making his first start for the club slotting in behind Nilmar and Rossi, and a very defensive midfield of Bruno, Marchena and Senna. It seemed Garrido's game plan was to try to slow the game down, keep it tight and not give up an early goal, hoping to take advantage of Nilmar and Rossi's speed to create a chance at the other end.
If that was the plan, it didn't work. Immediately Franck Ribéry began to create problems down our right wing, young Mario Gaspar simply being unable to contain him. In the sixth minute Bayern took the ball away from Villarreal, Ribery fed a quick pass to Toni Kroos, and his first-time shot sped past Diego Lopéz and into the net.
Villarreal threatened soon afterward, with a Nilmar shot deflected away from the goalkeeper by a defender's elbow as he turned away from the shot. And for the next ten minutes or so the game was quite even, with Villarreal winning corners and Rossi forcing a fine save from Neuer in a one-on-one situation. But whether it was the Bayern substitution, Rafinha coming in for the injured Van Buyten, or simply Bayern growing in confidence, the game became more and more one-sided.
As halftime approached Villarreal were hanging on, unable to control the ball in midfield and finding themselves being split open by Ribery in particular. Only the frequent offside calls against Mario Gomez, and a couple of big saves from Lopez, kept the scoreline from reflecting the dominance Bayern were enjoying. On the stroke of halftime Senna's free kick found Mario who forced a scrambling save from Neuer. We weren't to know it, but that would be our last shot on goal for the day.
HT Villarreal 0-1 Bayern
As many observers expected, Garrido brought in Cani for the ineffective Senna to start the second half, and for the first ten minutes or so the Submarine was at least forcing the play, though Bayern's superior strength and ability to break up Villarreal's passing led to two one-on-one opportunities for Peterson, who had replaced Mario at halftime, with Lopez equal to both. At least the match was a bit more competitive in midfield, with Tymoschuk, Schwansteiger and Marchena all picking up yelllows (and Marchena lucky not to get a second one).
But after that initial spurt, the second half was all Bayern. Lopez had already made his third sharp save of the half, and Kroos had been put through on goal but only succeeded in grazing the post with his tap-in in the 68th minute, while Villarreal had offered nothing in attack. Any hope for an unjustified equalizer and point vanished when in the 76th minute Rafinha turned Bruno inside-out on the edge of the box and slammed a shot past the possibly unsighted López.
After that, it was still an exercise in damage limitation, though in injury time the Submarine threatened briefly, Rossi's free kick going wide after one of the few periods of possession we enjoyed. Regardless of who was on the pitch, we seemed bereft of ideas, and only the excellent Zapata and Diego López kept the score from being as one-sided as some Bayern fans bragged it would be beforehand.
In the second half Villarreal had three shots--two of them free kicks (neither on target) and the other a De Guzman shot from the top of the box in the 48th minute. That illustrates the dominance of Bayern in midfield and their success in breaking up our attacking play better than any description I could give.
FT Villarreal 0-2 Bayern
Some will question Garrido's personnel choices and choice of formation. Putting De Guzman in for his first start in yellow was a risk, and without Cani it was always hard to see how we would create much going forward. However, even when he was in there Bayern were a superior team physically and technically. It didn't look like anyone had an answer for the Germans' quick buildup in midfield, and I have seldom seen Ribéry so dominant.
Villarreal were outmuscled, outfought and outthought on this day. At least the other Group A match finished in a draw, so we are only one point out of second place!