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Recap: SECOND PLACE

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What a win last night by Villarreal. I am still breathless from the dominating performance of the Yellow Submarine at El Madrigal. Villarreal dominated a very strong Atletico Madrid team, making them look mid-table at best. Villarreal's calm presence on the ball, fluid movement and impenetrable defense looked the stuff of champions.

The match started off slowly enough, with somewhat even possession. Atletico may have even had the best shot on goal in the 25' when Maxi put a hard and low drive towards the goal. But Diego Lopez, in the one real effort he had to make all night, made the save look so easy. He dove to his right, knocked the ball wide, and was up on his feet with pure confidence a half-second later.

Villarreal broke through in the 39' after Nihat found Rossi on the left who centered back to Cazorla. Perea had a chance at the ball, but muffed it, and Cazorla comfortably slotted through to give Villarreal a one goal lead. (video - thanks Kqql). It was only four minutes later that Cazorla handled the ball on the left side of the area and tapped it back to Rossi who then put a pass right in front of Nihat who slammed home as Abbiati and a defender came sliding across. It was 2-0, and the match was locked up before the break.

After the break, Villarreal continued to dominate the red and white side, preventing any terribly dangerous opportunities. Atleti did come close with a Nacho Camacho header from a corner that glanced harmlessly off the upper-ninety. It was in the 66' when the game was truly finished. Santi Cazorla led a break, passed to Nihat, and he drilled it home under the legs of Abbiati to make the final 3-0.

After the game was written off by Atletico with the third goal, the Madrid side began to to try and get under the Yellows' skin. Rossi had to tell Aguirre to be quiet at one point of the match, and Pires actually stopped during the match to tell Aguirre what he should do with himself. The entire match was physical, but Atletico began to bring out some cheap shots, especially on Rossi. He was elbowed down a couple of times, but the worst was Perea, who stepped squarely on Rossi's back while he was on the ground having just been knocked off his feet. The sportsmanship of many of the Atletico squad was sorely lacking. Perea needs to be suspended for three matches for his pathetic actions.

Villarreal are now a point clear in second place, having watched Barcelona embarrass themselves by allowing a 0-2 lead slip away in the second half of their match against Betis. Betis truly earned the victory with some spectacular play, but Barca should have never given them the chance. Today, Madrid play Sevilla, and with Villarreal a comfortable 14 points ahead of the Andalusian side, the Yellows must surely be pulling for the upset in Madrid.

I would not have guessed five weeks ago, coming off a disappointing nil-nil draw with Osasuna that there would be any chance we could be in second with eight weeks to go. First place and champion of La Liga is within the team's sights. Could it really be possible? Sevilla will have a lot to do with the outcome of the league, playing Madrid today and Villarreal next week. Villarreal must stay focused. It would be so easy to slip and lose ground against the very good teams they are up against.

VAMOS VILLARREAL!

Other recaps: Marca, Soccernet, Goal.com, El Periodico Mediterraneo, As.com.