Okay, so I predicted the two-goal difference correctly, but I didn't expect this game to go the way it did. Villarreal scored in the first few minutes of play and to be honest looked as though they were going to run Almeria off the pitch--the difference in class and quality was immediately evident. Trouble was, after about ten minutes we let up, and the remainder of the first half was a bit like a cat toying with a mouse, to no real purpose.
The early goal was excellent--Gio with an incisive pass to Uche, who took the time and picked his spot over keeper Esteban and a sliding defender. Almeria might have been expected to immediately come forward and leave more openings at the back, but actually they tried to tighten things up and as the first half wore on it seemed clear their plan had become get to the break down only one goal, which they did.
Suso came on at halftime for Barbosa and was immediately dangerous, but dangerous in the sense he could beat several defenders at the top of the box and shoot (he had four shots in his 45 minutes, more than any other Almeria player) or try to cross--Almeria's fundamental problem was lack of any real attacking strength. Jonathan Zongo is not a Primera-quality player, and Aleix Vidal was curiously subdued and was subbed in the second half himself.
Almeria took advantage of the curious decision-making qualities of Sr. Muñiz Fernández, spoiling Villarreal attacks with clumsy fouls on Uche and Moi (among others) that were not called, while going to ground themselves in order to pick up phantom calls against us.
Our defense was good overall, though Almeria did attack to Jaume Costa's side most of the time and Asenjo did have to make a couple of key interventions. If the visitors were going to score, it was probably going to be from a set piece, and though the referee awarded them a couple of dangerous free kicks, and we conceded seven corners, nothing much happened from any of them.
Credit to Marcelino for his subs--Manu, Gio and Aquino all were off their best. Fresh legs in Hernán Pérez and Jony helped--Jony of course won what even this referee could figure out was a penalty, and Hernan should have gotten Dubarbier sent off for a second yellow moments before that but the obvious foul was missed. And Jony could have had an assist, too, if he hadn't been called offside when there were two Almeria players fully a meter behind him--he passed to Uche who stuffed the ball home, but it was ruled out in yet another terrible call.
And after Perbet's penalty miss in the Copa, is was great to see Bruno step up and bury this one.
Good teams get by even when not playing at their best, and we did. Next week we travel to Valladolid, who are struggling mightily at this point. Diego Mariño has played excellently for them in goal, but their defense in front of him has been poor. We'll hope for another three points, but a better performance from the Submarine then.
Who's hot: Uche, who is 'pichichi so far in 2014' the papers tell us.
Moi --I'm going to start calling him "twinkletoes", as he is becoming much more confident in rushing at defenders and beating them. No question, until Cani returns he owns that starting spot.
Musacchio--marshaled the defense well, was a threat on set pieces and won necessary challenges
Asenjo--a couple of fine saves, and totally in control
Pina--looked good against La Real, and again here in the last 25mins or so--added bite to midfield defensively while offering support in attack
Who's not: Javier Aquino--has his moments, but has been getting snuffed out of games of late
Manu Trigueros-- still young, this was a game where his passes didn't work out much and he was not able to win the ball back quickly in midfield.
Juan Carlos-- error in the Copa and strong play of Asenjo for us and Marino (whom we can buy back) for Valladolid have me wondering if he will be the odd man out