A close call in the islands. Whew.
Villarreal remain unbeaten in the Segunda, but to be honest stole a point from Las Palmas by sharing the honors today. It was a wildly entertaining game in Gran Canaria, but two penalties from Marcos Senna were virtually the only shots on goal Villarreal had all day. Much work still to do, methinks.
The Submarine, playing in the unfamiliar second strip--black--took an early lead in the seventh minute when Manu Trigueros burst into the area and was barged into by Pio Pio captain David Garcia. Senna made no mistake, doing a Rossi-style feint in his runup and putting the ball low to the keeper's right.
Las Palmas were unlucky not to at least draw level within five minutes. First Juan Carlos tipped a shot off his far post, and the home side were denied by the crossbar with our keeper well beaten after a corner kick wasn't cleared well. Villarreal had the lion's share of possession in the first half, but little of it went anywhere. Cani and Uche were MIA yet again and Cavenaghi looked bewildered at times as he had absolutely no support apart from Manu.
Villarreal did have a chance or two, but Mario shot over the goal instead of passing to a wide open Cavegol--our best chance of the half. In the dying minutes of the half Las Palmas created some cornerns and had a dangerous free kick but fortunately nothing came of it. Villarreal went to the break leading, perhaps undeservedly so, and with Mellberg and Juan Oriol on yellow cards.
HT Las Palmas 0-1 Villarreal
Within a minute of the restart, Las Palmas had drawn level, and it was an absolute gift from Juan Carlos. He received a backpass and inexplicably kicked the ball directly to a Las Palmas player who was standing between Musacchio and Mellberg. JC saved the first shot, but Thievy, following up, slotted the rebound home. A horrible goal to give up, especially so early in the half.
The home side gained in confidence and frankly outplayed us in the middle of the pitch. Cani and Uche didn't improve (both shot over the goal with decent chances) and Bruno and Marcos Senna were curiously under par. I don't know if it was hot or what, but a lot of our players looked tired and the fresher legs belonged to Las Palmas.
Velasquez's first change was Hernan Perez for Cavenaghi in the 65th minute, but Las Palmas's first sub, Chrisantus, made a quicker impact. In the 71st minute he slotted a quick diagonal pass to Thievy who slid the ball past an onrushing Juan Carlos, and we were behind.
Now the game became more frenetic, with lots of end-to-end action as Villarreal pressed forward and Las Palmas continued to have success in the counterattack. Pandiani and Bordas came on for Cani and Uche, and from a counter of our own Hernan Perez found himself one-on-one with keeper Barbosa (remember he played for us against Arsenal in the CL semis?) and the ex-Villarreal man clearly took down the Paraguayan.
Barbosa received a yellow card; some wanted red, but it didn't happen. Anyhow, Senna reproduced his PK magic of earlier--same side, same slot--and it was 2-2.
In the remaining time both teams went for the winner, and both came close. In fact, right at the death Thievy nearly got his hat-trick, speeding into the area after receiving the world's fastest throw-in (the ball had hardly gone out of play before the throw was taken!) and somehow the ball was hacked away from him and he fell in a tangle calling for a penalty. I didn't see a replay of it, and I don't care to. I am just glad the final whistle went at that point.
FT Las Palmas 2-2 Villarreal
Thoughts: an erratic refereeing performance, to say the least. Trigueros and Perez were manhandled at times while Pio Pio attackers fell over and won free kicks under legal challenges. When in doubt, go to ground. Peep!
An erratic performance from Juan Carlos too, only inasmuch as his error let them in the game. Otherwise he did pretty well, though he went swimming once or twice.
Overall Villarreal looked tired and disjointed. Cavenaghi did nothing, Uche and Cani little more, we left ourselves open to the quick diagonal ball to create a break with the extra man time after time as we couldn't maintain possession in the opposition half. I have no idea what Las Palmas team went down 5-0 to Girona, because these guys looked a lot better than us for much of the time today. Still, a point is a point.