New coach, same players, same poor away performance. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
If you remember, we had a poll on this website earlier asking if the blame for Villarreal's poor season to that point lay with the coach (Garrido), the players, or the owners, in terms of their summer signings. There was general agreement that the coach wasn't the main culprit, but we were all hoping a coaching change would help.
On today's performance, no. You can take all the good vibes from the Valencia match and throw them away, because this performance was as poor as I've seen from Villarreal in the league in a long while.
Without Marco Ruben, Molina started our expensive summer signing DeGuzmán along with Hernán Pérez. Marcos Senna, surprisingly, didn't play, and of course Marco Ruben was suspended. For the first 20-25 minutes or so Villarreal created nothing--Borja was playing in the doble pivote, too deep to affect things, and De Guzmán and Cani were completely ineffective. Hernan Perez made a couple of runs but was hacked whenever he got the ball, and Nilmar never saw it.
Our defense actually looked OK for the first half-hour or so, but without the midfield able to retain possession at all or play the ball to anyone ahead of them in a yellow shirt, Atleti began to find opportunities and frankly should have been ahead long before they were if not for some ineptitude in front of goal. Ironically, the goal arrived after one of Villarreal's more promising surges forward to that point, and also ironically it shouldn't have counted, Adrian being just offside. But it wasn't called, and he cut the ball back for Falcao. Three Villarreal defenders were near him, but couldn't keep the Colombian from controlling the ball and flicking it into the net.
I really don't remember much else other than Godin catching Pérez, a half-chance for Borja, and yet more giveaways from Cani and DeGuzman. We had no shots on goal, no corners, and though the goal was questionable, Atleti deserved their lead.
HT Atletico Madrid 1-0 Villarreal
Much discussion about substitutions and who should come off. Perhaps Marcos Senna wasn't fit on this cold day, and evidently Hernán Pérez was feeling the pain from a couple of challenges, because he came off along with DeGuzmán; Castellani and Musacchio (!) replaced them. However, this group never really got a chance to get going. Musacchio gave the ball away in midfield, and a quick through ball found Falcao on the edge of our box, where he was tripped by Gonzalo. It appeared the contact came outside the box, but the referee awarded a penalty, which Falcao duly converted.
At this point any chance we seriously had to pick up a point had gone, and I was finding the home-made doughnuts my wife made for breakfast far more interesting than the game (so too was one of our cats!). Borja Valero looked frustrated--he kept digging and playing hard but was getting no help. Cani continued to play as poorly as I've ever seen him, and our back four was all over the place as the game got more stretched.
I should record we had a couple of corners and we even had a shot on goal. But Zapata couldn't sort out his feet or something and his shot went wide when it would've been easier to score. Atleti's defense is no great shakes, as we know, but we never tested them.
As the game spiraled on to its inevitable conclusion, Diego Lopez and our defense tried their best to give Falcao a third goal. The sequence started innocently enough, with Lopez making a great save on a wicked Falcao shot going across him. Lopez made another stop from the resulting corner, but when he threw the ball to begin an attack, he held on to it too long, or the ball got stuck in his glove, or something, as it traveled about 5 feet. Lopez saved another shot, and then our defense gave the ball away--again!--and somehow Atleti failed to score--again!
Finally Molina brought on Joselu for Cani. The only remaining thing of interest in the game was Atleti's third goal. As we've seen so often this season, Zapata was several steps behind the rest of the defensive line, played Adrian onside, and he crossed for Diego to score. (Diego was the best player on the pitch today, btw)
FT Atletico Madrid 3-0 Villarreal
20 shots to 3, 9 on target to 0. And 13 fouls to 8. Not that I want to have us commit fouls, but it indicates the lack of intensity today.
As Kenez asked after the match on the game thread, what do coaches work on during the week?
When the game ended, I saw the expressions on some of the players' faces--Gonzalo for instance. I think the reality--that relegation is a real possibility-- has hit home. Apart from Borja and Bruno, there was precious little quality out there today. We were a clear second best to an Atleti team that is nowhere near as good as a year ago.
I feel sorry for the Villarreal fans who travelled to this one--this was an abject performance. About the only good thing I can find to say is that we don't have to endure one of Garrido's monologues afterwards. But I think Molina's honeymoon has just ended--with a thud.
Depending on results later today, we could be in 19th place, three points behind safety. The game a week from Monday against Sporting was already a must-win game, now it's even more so (if that's possible). Watching this pathetic effort and listening to the ESPN commentators saying that we were going down....
From Nacho Aranda, a fan on twitter. I don't think you'll need a translation.
Bien el Atleti, muy mal el Villarreal. Que el penalti sea fuera del área es un error grave, la situación y el fútbol del VILL es mucho peor
Things can only get better, right? Endavant Villarreal. Now more than ever.