And there goes the #Lotinazo. Villarreal fell 3-1 away to Real Betis on Saturday evening at the Benito Villamarín, and the scoreline may have been kind on the Yellow Submarine.
Villarreal reverted to the trivote, last seen in Miguel Ángel Lotina's debut at El Madrigal against Real Madrid. So Ángel Lopez joined Bruno Soriano and Marcos Senna in a crowded central midfield in an attempt to slow down the Betis counterattack. Ultimately unsuccessful.
The Betis XI featured former Submariners Jefferson Montero and Jony Pereira on the wings, with Beñat, Rubén Castro, and Paulão all passing fitness tests. Unfortunate for us.
I missed the opening minutes, but the neutral observer reviews on Marca were not favorable. To sum up the first half-hour, Villarreal had nearly 60% of the possession, and Ángel and Paulão went into the book. Betis had a point-blank chance on the quarter-hour, but Diego López made a key save.
Villarreal nearly went ahead from a fluke, with Dorado beating his own keeper Fabricio from a back pass. But the ball agonizingly rolled against the post, and Marco Ruben could not reach the rebound in time.
Santa Cruz 1-0 34'
And eventually Villarreal's inability to convert possession into clear-cut chances proved costly. From a Betis corner, Rubén Castro gathered on the edge of the box, danced around a defender, then unleashed a swerving shot at López. Perhaps our keeper should have done better, but he could only divert the rebound into the path of Paraguayan international Roque Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz timed his run to perfection, beating Gonzalo Rodríguez to the ball, then finished with ease.
Molina 2-0 37'
And the story got worse for Villarreal minutes later. Reminiscent of Zaragoza's last-minute winner at La Romareda, the seas parted for Castro to walk in alone on López. The ball was nicely laid off to Lotina's former cast-off at Deportivo La Coruña, and he cleverly chipped López to tap in unmolested. Game over, as far as I was concerned. For his complaints after keeping Castro onside, Joan Oriol earned his fifth yellow card of the season and will miss Thursday's home game against Málaga.
Half Time: 2-0
Nilmar replaced Senna at the break and looked lively, but we still lacked a cutting edge. And former Athletic Bilbao midfielder Beñat ended the match as a contest by the hour-mark. A beautiful counter by the hosts was concluded by Beñat, who wormed his way past Oriol, then Bruno, and beat López with placement. Hard to fault our keeper on the night, but maybe he could have done more. We certainly needed a big save or two.
Beñat 3-0 58'
Javier Matilla came on, Montero went off to an ovation, and Lotina brought on Alejandro Martinuccio and Javier Camuñas to freshen things up. Too little, too late. But we did improve with three strikers on the pitch, even after Ángel was mysteriously sent off. Betis probably should have padded its lead, but Nilmar and Borja Valero finally tested a shaky Fabricio in the final ten minutes. And Ruben won a penalty, then converted it with the last kick of the match. An honor goal, but I'm pleased that we continued to play until the final whistle.
Ruben 3-1 90+3' (pen.)
Full Time: 3-1
Not much to write about today, but it's just one match. And we're still four points above the drop zone. As far as I'm concerned, on to Santi Cazorla's return to El Madrigal on Thursday evening. Endavant Villarreal!