Let's be clear. This was really only a "fair fight" for 45 minutes. Villarreal were second-best during that time, and never troubled the Athletic goal, but might we have improved in the second half, eleven-on-eleven? We'll never know.
I think (and hope) that Marcelino will admit he got our lineup wrong, for a start. We had speed, yes, but no one who could hold up the ball in the attacking half. Jony Pereira was just too lightweight. And for those of you who were worried about our returning Mexicans? You were right to worry. They were as unimpressive in the first half as they had been playing for Mexico, unfortunately.
For about the first 10-15 minutes Villarreal actually did look as though they might do something, but never really created anything because of poor passing or last-minute interventions by defenders. Continually conceding possession, with no real sustained period of pressure, just wasn't going to work, and it didn't. The home side began to come into it more and more, especially down our left, where Aquino and Costa were being overrun on a regular basis.
The trends were worrying, and it was not too surprising when Athletic scored on a fine header from Mikel Rico, getting in between Musacchio and Dorado to nod the ball home. It was an excellent goal, but there was really no excuse for the cross being so unchallenged.
Then came the first of two mistakes that ultimately decided this match. Villarreal lost the ball and an Athletic defender launched a high ball forward. Musacchio attempted to kick it, essentially missed, and then to compound things, fell over, effectively blocking Dorado from getting to the ball. Aduriz gleefully controlled it, steamed unchallenged into the box and beat Asenjo.
As if that wasn't bad enough, worse was to come. Bruno Soriano picked up a yellow card a couple of minutes later for something--I don't actually remember what--but just before halftime, there was an innocuous tussle between he and an Athletic player, the ball came free and hit Bruno's arm as he was lying on the ground--and the referee awarded him another yellow card and sent him off. This had to be one of the most ridiculous calls I have ever seen, to be honest.
HT Athletic Club 2-0 Villarreal
Down to 10 men and two goals down, on came Manu Trigueros and Moi Gomez, with Aquino and Jony heading off. Iker Muinain had a fun time running at our defense and creating chances, and only Sergio Asenjo and a bit of luck prevented Athletic scoring further.
Villarreal's one chance to score, around the 65th minute, saw a Gio first-time shot careen off Iriazoz's heel to safety. Immediately after that Gio came out, and Uche came on. We all know that didn't lead to anything.
Manu Trigueros nearly scored off a free kick, but the goalkeeper got over to the post and tipped it wide, as he's supposed to do. Any other chances we had to do anything were stopped by cynical fouls before they could get started, and the ref wasn't about to send one of their players off for anything so significant as a pullback with the shirt or obstruction.
FT Athletic Club 2-0 Villarreal
I could maybe find a few players who played less badly than others, but really, there's no point. Clean the catbox, take out the poop and get rid of it, and move on--don't look back. We had no game plan and no luck either. All I will say is, please, can Jérémy Perbet come out to play now??