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Sevilla fight back to earn 3-3 draw

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Villarreal and Sevilla drew 3-3 at El Madrigal in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal. It was a bitter result for Villarreal as Sevilla twice came back from two goals down, and leaves Sevilla realistically only needing a draw in the return match to progress.

Coach Garrido surprised everyone by leaving Bruno and Gonzalo out of the starting lineup, with Matilla in central midfield and Musacchio and Catala in the center of defense. The opening 15-20 minutes produced little in the way of chances for either side, but Villarreal's passing game started to click. The first goal came on 23 minutes and was started by a pass from Catala to Cani, who found Rossi. His shot was blocked, Cazorla's follow-up shot caromed to Cani who volleyed it home. Five minutes later Villarreal took a short corner, the ball came to Rossi who struck a shot from outside the area that deflected past Sevilla keeper Varas and things looked good for the Submarine.

Yet again, referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco and his linesmen had a tough day. Sevilla felt Joan Capdevila used his hand to trap a ball in the penalty area, and appealed to no avail, while at the other end Rossi was ruled offside when it appeared he was in line with the last man. Seven minutes before halftime Sevilla got the goal they wished for, Romaric playing a lovely pass to Negredo, who though marked by Catalá exhibited outstanding skill to control the ball and slot it home past Juan Carlos. Shortly afterward Villarreal's reserve keeper injured a leg coming out to clear a ball away from Negredo, and was substituted by Diego López shortly before the break.

After halftime Villarreal came out strongly. Rossi shot narrowly over after stealing the ball in midfield, and when the third Villarreal goal came shortly afterward it was a thing of beauty, beginning with a pass out from keeper Lopez, involving Matilla, Capdevila, Rossi, and Capdevila again. His precise cross was headed in by Marco Ruben and it was 3-1. Yet again, though, Sevilla answered within minutes, Negredo heading in at the near post and beating Catalá yet again to do so.

With half an hour to go the next goal was crucial, and Sevilla brought on Kanoute for Perrotti. As soon as that change was made, on came Gonzalo for Matilla, pushing Musacchio to midfield. In the 76th minute Villarreal thought they had scored a fourth goal. Ruben received a pass from Cani, ran into the area and fired it home, but though the Villarreal players celebrated the goal was waved away for offside, which seemed at best harsh-- Ruben looked level with the last defender as the pass was made. The El Madrigal crowd whistled as Capdevila had to break up the resulting counterattack with a yellow card, and Sevilla seemed the better side for the remainder of the match as they pressed for an equalizer.

Assistant Coach Raul Garrido (coaching from the bench as his brother served his suspension by sitting in the front row behind and surely providing input) had one substitution to make and didn't use it, probably a mistake. As in the Real Madrid match, Villarreal had a choice of attacking to protect the scoreline or improve it, and trying to hold out by soaking up pressure--and yet again the defense failed, though at least this time there was no doubt about the goal's validity. Alexis found space at the top of the area (beating Catalá once again), received a pass from Romaric in the corner and his precise, low shot found its way past Diego López just inside the post.

As on the weekend, Villarreal can look back on some excellent attacking play, with Cani, Ruben, and Rossi outstanding. Yet again, though, Villarreal's defensive frailties were all too evident. Without either Bruno or the injured Senna, the midfield didn't offer sufficient defensive support at critical times, and surely Coach Garrido can see Catalá is not the answer at the back. That's not to take anything away from players like Matilla, Musacchio and Mario, who performed decently, but their lack of experience told in the end. By all accounts Villarreal are in the market for a right back to replace the injured Angel, and a midfielder to add some strength there, and one can see why.

As for Sevilla, Capel and especially Perrotti were subpar, the backline lacked confidence, and for large spells of the game they looked uninspired. Romaric and Negredo saved them tonight, and with three away goals in hand they have to feel confident about their chances to move on in this competition.