Villarreal played perhaps its best game of the season so far in comprehensively defeating Real Mallorca 3-1 at El Madrigal. Goals came from Santi Cazorla, Rossi (penalty) and Nilmar, with de Guzman scoring for the visitors. The Yellow Submarine threatened early, with a shot from Bruno well saved by Aouate, before Cazorla finished off a fine pass from Rossi with a well-struck goal in the 11th minute. Villarreal continued to press their dominance with Santi, Borja Valero and Rossi all looking dangerous, but when the next goal came, in the 28th minute, it was against the run of play. A magnificent half-volley from de Guzman near the top of the area from a cross from Webo left Diego López with no chance, and the match was tied.
But, much as took place at Brugge in midweek, Villarreal’s response to the goal was to attack, and success was not long in coming. Within five minutes Rossi was hauled down on the edge of the box, Webo blocked the subsequent free kick with his hand, and Rossi duly converted the penalty. At halftime it was 2-1, an accurate reflection of the way the game had gone to that point.
There have been times this season when Villarreal has played well in the first half and not in the second, but today Villarreal extended both its lead and dominance of the match after the break. Nilmar had already had an excellent chance denied on the edge of the area shortly after the restart, and shortly afterward Borja Valero sent a through ball to Nilmar, who scored with a magnificent right-footed shot over Aouate from a tight angle. A sublime goal, one of the best of the season from the Brazilian. For the remaining 40 minutes of the match, Mallorca had very little in the way of controlled possession, though De Guzman and Castro looked potentially dangerous at times. Probably their best opportunity came in the 58th minute, when Musacchio was booked for a foul just outside the area (meaning he will miss the Almería match), and the resulting free kick resulted in a bit of a scramble before Diego López calmly collected the ball.
Aouate made a fine save from Cani to keep the score at 3-1; Villarreal’s passing game created numerous half-chances, but the final touch or pass just wasn’t quite there. As for Mallorca, they succeeded in amassing a 25-8 lead in fouls, but very little else. Nonetheless, this was an impressive performance. Santi Cazorla and Borja Valero rebounded from recent subpar performances and played very well, and Bruno and Cani were equally strong in midfield. Apart from being caught out on Mallorca’s goal, the central defense pairing of Musacchio and Gonzalo looked strong, Capdevila looked to have fully recovered from his ankle injury, and Ángel played well too (and gave his shirt to someone in the crowd at the end, a nice touch). As for the strike pairing of Nilmar and Rossi, they were outstanding. Nilmar scored a fine goal, ran hard to set up other chances, and looked dangerous whenever he moved forward; as for Rossi, he makes everyone around him shine. His feel for the game and ability to set up other players is excellent, and he is a great finisher and penalty taker as well.
The good spirits at El Madrigal were slightly dampened by a late shower-- one hopes the Mallorca bigwigs who refused to sit with Sr. Roig in the presidential box were suitably drenched as a result-- and many fans had headed for home before the match ended. Certainly the Villarreal supporters were celebrating an excellent victory in their last home game of 2010 to give the Submarine a firm hold on third place in La Liga. What a difference a year makes!