Hernan Perez came off the bench and gave us a necessary spark today. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
The fans at El Madrigal certainly had a wide-open game to watch this afternoon, and in the end went home happy but muttering as the Yellow Submarine spotted Guadalajara an early goal but scored two in the second half to post a 2-1 win and move into the top five in the Segunda table.
Going in we expected Guadalajara would not offer much, and they largely didn't, but Villarreal's problem at defending set pieces cropped up early. In the 13th minute Senna was called for a foul outside the box and we defended the cross poorly. Juan Carlos saved the first shot (though perhaps he could have caught it for sure) and the rebound went to Kepa who headed it home.
Villarreal was controlling the play but was finding it hard to deal with the high pressure from the visitors. Too often Cani , for example, would lose the ball in midfield and Guadalajara would break with Javi Venta and Joan Oriol caught well out of position. Mellberg and Musacchio had to intervene on multiple occasions and Mellberg prevented a Guadalajara player scoring into an open goal with a desparate slide tackle in the box. Like Gonzalo but clean!
As the first half wore on Guadalajara defended deeper and deeper, but apart from some shots from Trigueros that Toño saved comfortably little was produced. Uche did little and Cavenaghi had little chance to see the ball.
HT Villarreal 0-1 Guadalajara
Within two minutes the Submarine had three chances to draw level, but Uche, Cani and someone else I can't remember could not finish it off. Villarreal huffed and puffed, winning corner after corner, but the visitors defended valiantly if not always within the law (last week's ref may have been good, this one let absurd challenges, especially on Senna or Trigueros, go far too often).
Coach Velasquez had abandoned his suit jacket at halftime and was wandering well outside his technical area to give advice to his players. Unfortunately goalkeeper Juan Carlos also had a desire to roam, and though one of his energetic interventions broke up a dangerous pass, he was caught in no man's land....but the chipped shot went off the crossbar, or we would have been down 2-0!
That happened just after Hernán Perez had come on for Uche and almost immediately set up Cavenaghi for a shot that was blocked by a desperate defender with the keeper beaten. Villarreal forced a series of corners, and from one of these the ball was hacked to Trigueros, who had taken the corner to start with; he crossed the ball, Mellberg and Toño collided, the ball spun forward and Mateo Musacchio backheeled it home through a forest of legs.
Walter Pandiani had come on for Cani just before that, and had a fine chance saved. There was clearly another goal to come, but though Villarreal had more firepower on the pitch they were always in danger of being caught out on the break, and Juan Carlos's roaming in the area did not inspire confidence, nor did his nearly fumbling an easy shot right into the path of Cristian.
Villarreal's best chance of the game came in 78 minutes when Hernan Perez found Cavenaghi who had time to turn and fire a low shot, but Toño guessed correctly and smothered it. Pandiani couldn't do much when Javi Venta's crosses were as bad as they were, but in the 82nd minute he was there to score a poacher's goal when Mellberg's header from a Senna corner was saved but the rebound went only as far as El Rifle. He was delighted, El Madrigal was delighted. Cool.
The remaining ten minutes or so Villarreal were content to soak up some pressure and the back four (a back five toward the end, with Mario Gaspar coming on for Cavenaghi) held firm. It really seemed as though only an egregiously bad call from the referee or another walkabout form Juan Carlos would rescue Guadalajara, and it didn't happen.
FT Villarreal 2-1 Guadalajara
Villarreal ratings: Juan Carlos 3; Oriol 5; Mellberg 7; Mussachio 7; Venta 4; Cani 4; Senna 6; Bruno 6; Trigueros 8; Uche 2; Cavenaghi 6. Subs: Hernan Perez 7, Pandiani 7, Mario no rating.
As you can tell I thought Uche was horrible, did nothing; Venta and Oriol couldn't cross, Cani would make one good pass and five poor ones. And please, Sr. Velasquez, put Diego Mariño in goal.
It did seem to me that Villarreal are still adjusting to life in the Segunda, in particular physical, unstylish defending and referees who too often let this sort of defending go unpunished. It was clear we had the best players on the pitch, but getting those players to play together and put away inferior teams is clearly something we don't have down yet. Still, three points is three points!