Back from the African Cup of Nations, and how. - Bryn Lennon
Ikechukwu Uche scored in the dying moments at Estadio El Madrigal to give Villarreal 3 valuable points on its 90th anniversary. The gap to second-place Almería is now just 5 points.
A victory is worth 3 points in football, no matter how you get it. It looked as if a win would escape Villarreal, instead producing another disappointing 1-1 home draw. And perhaps Sporting Gijón had done enough in the second half to merit something from the match.
But in the 93rd minute, Bruno Soriano found Ikechukwu Uche with a through ball at the edge of the box. With his first touch, the Nigerian striker brilliantly turned his defender. A second touch took him past the line of cover, and the third was a low left-footed shot across the Sporting keeper, off the post, and in. Javi Mata, El Madrigal, and the Villarreal faithful worldwide exploded. What a way to celebrate the club's 90th anniversary.
Five takeaways from the last-gasp 2-1 victory over Sporting:
- Marcelino García Toral did not tinker with the lineup that won 0-2 in Córdoba. So much for tailoring the lineup to the opponent. I would say the manager's moves were a net negative on the day, taking out an imperious Javier Farinós (yet again) in 60' for sentimental favorite (but out-of-sorts) Marcos Senna. And Marcelino waited too long (until 73') to bring on Jérémy Perbet for an ineffective Jonathan Pereira.
- Villarreal again came out on fire, creating multiple clear-cut chances in the opening minutes. Javier Aquino is showing why he was so highly-rated at Cruz Azul, opening up spaces in the opposing defense and drawing cards from defenders hung out to dry. I am particularly impressed with his willingness to track back in defense and provide encouragement to his teammates. He looks a good fit for Villarreal.
- Ikechukwu Uche was the story early and often. He was in alone in 4', pushing a shot just wide of the Sporting keeper. Then he drew another 'clear-cut' penalty in 10', being hauled down in the box by his shirt. Play on, said the referee. Here we go again...until a Mateo Musacchio long ball saw Uche play over the top of his defender, control with his chest, and roof one short-side past a stunned netminder. Golazo.
- Senna was directly at fault for Sporting's goal, playing Gastón Sangoy onside as a makeshift right back. Villarreal was caught out on a number of occasions on the counterattack, revealing some chinks in Marcelino's strategy to get wingbacks Mario Gaspar and Jaume Costa forward. Something to work on in training.
- Aquino hit the bar with a thunderous strike in 76'. Perbet was denied at the near post by a nice save in 82'. The ball skittered through the goalmouth and flashed inches wide of the far post in 90'+1. Just when all looked lost, up stepped Uche. El Madrigal has a new favorite -- my boy.
On to Huesca and another chance to pick up 3 points on the road. And to continue our first winning streak since September(!).
What were your impressions of Villarreal-Sporting? Will this be a turning point in 2012-13? How would you manage the strikers going forward?