Valencian Community rivals Elche came to El Madrigla looking for three points to move away from the drop zone; Villarreal were looking to close the gap to fifth place, if not fourth, with a win. Neither got what they wanted in a frequently turgid match with few moments of real quality.
The Yellow Submarine began decently enough, with Cani fizzing a pass across the area that Jeremy Perbet just failed to connect with. But for most of the half, Villarreal played without any real insight or attacking ideas--just looked to pump the ball forward and hope Jony Pereira, making his first start in months, or else Perbet, could run onto it.
Elche didn't look any great shakes either, but they started to win corners, and from one of them, they had success of a sort. The initial cross was cleared but fell to Botia, operating with his back to goal along the touchline, and Jeremy Perbet made an ill-advised challenge from behind and was whistled for a foul and thus a penalty to Elche.
Much discussion on twitter about this, but frankly, in Undiano Mallenco--as we saw recently in the Clásico--you have a ref who takes the "fouls within the box create penalties" seriously, and no question, it was a foul in the box. Anyway, Asenjo guessed right, Damian Suarez went left, and stroked a nice low shot for the lead.
Villarreal didn't look much more impressive than they had to that point--if they had gone in down a goal, I think it would have been understandable--but they didn't. A rather speculative attack garnered results when Moi displayed excellent insincts, just touching a bouncing ball forward so that Jony Pereira could volley it home. His first goal since September 26 against Espanyol.
HT Villarreal 1-1 Elche
The Submarine began the second half with more purpose, and controlled play for most of this half, but actual chances were thin on the ground. Cani created one but pulled his shot wide of the post; Perbet snapped off a quick header--he seems to be good with these sort of instinctive plays, more so than when you get the ball at his feet--but it sailed just over the bar. The crowd at El Madrigal was getting behind the team, too, good to hear, but it all sort of died away in the last 10 minutes or so.
Maybe it was the substitutions--Jony coming off first was a bit surprising, I expected Uche to replace Perbet; Oliver for Moi seemed like a good idea to introduce more speed, and Trigueros for Pina was a throw of the dice hoping for an incisive pass to unlock the defense and produce the second goal. But whether because of them, or tiredness, or what, the Submarine looked like it was pretty much out of gas by the time the referee blew for time.
FT Villarreal 1-1 Elche
The positives: our makeshift back line didn't allow anything from open play, and both Pantic and Gabriel looked good, though most of the Elche attack consisted of high balls played in to the area. Jony started and scored, and Cani looked good (at least for 70 minutes or so--I think he did little the last 20 minutes). Also, I thought Moi did very well today. He's not fast, but he has good instincts and used them well.
The negatives: the first half, which was rather "loose" to say the least. I didn't have any sense of what we were trying to do most of the time. Not helped by the fact Perbet had a poor half, culminating in the penalty. He was better in the second half, to be fair, but still, apart form the one flashed shot over the top, failed to impress. And I thought Bruno was below par today--he looks tired.
With the next match coming up against Atleti (away) I think we are going to rue these two dropped points for sure. We don't have an easy run in at all, and we could have gone fifth with a win today. Sigh.