It wasn't the most dominant of performances, but Villarreal took all three points over Osasuna with a 4-2 victory at El Madrigal to remain in third place in La Liga. Osasuna could have been awarded a penalty in the first minute of the match, when a cross hit Bruno's hand as he slid to block it, but after that Villarreal gradually began to dominate the proceedings, with Cani, Ruben, and Rossi all forcing saves from Osasuna goalkeeper Ricardo in the first fifteen minutes. When the Submarine's first goal arrived in the 22nd minute, it was a thing of beauty- Borja Valero creating space on the left and crossing the ball to Marco Ruben,who powerfully headed the ball home. Once in the lead, though, Villarreal relaxed, and though Osasuna didn't create any great chances in the remainder of the half, they did create some nervous moments around the penalty area. Ricardo made a nice save on Cani just before the break to keep it 1-0.
Within three minutes of the restart, Villarreal conceded a corner, and the ball was flicked on for Vadocz to head home. It was a good play, but poor set-piece defending from Villarreal, and Diego López was yet again flat-footed on his line--surely he needs to be more aggressive in coming out to deal with these sorts of corners.
Villarreal fans (including those watching in the US on GolTV) may have been shaking their heads, but Cani almost immediately restored the lead, catching Ricardo off his line with a superbly taken goal- from the center line. A candidate for goal of the season!
This seemed to deflate Osasuna a bit, and when Joan Capdevila scored a third Villarreal goal, this one from a corner kick by Borja Valero which was headed to the far post by Ruben, it seemed as if Osasuna might pack it in. To their credit, though, they didn't, and Villarreal soon presented them with a gift. Diego López kicked the ball into touch under no pressure whatsoever, and the resulting throw-in was allowed to run to the goal line, where an Osasuna player evaded Gonzalo's attempted tackle and crossed the ball for Calleja to make it 3-2. The next few minutes were scrappy, with Villarreal creating some half-chances, but with six minutes to go, Osasuna conceded a corner, and Gonzalo promptly scored from another excellent Borja delivery. The remaining minutes were mainly noteworthy for Cicinho making his debut and even Cristóbal getting on for the last few minutes of action.
Without the injured Pandiani, and players away on international duty, it was always going to be a tough struggle for Osasuna now that Juanfran is gone, and while they tried hard (and full credit to their small group of traveling fans, who cheered their team until the final whistle), keeper Ricardo kept the scoreline from being even more one-sided. As for Villarreal, the team never seemed to kick into first gear, and El Madrigal, the players, and even Coach Garrido seemed more subdued than usual today. Maybe everyone was trying to use as little energy as they could, saving it for the Sevilla game on Tuesday. Borja Valero was my man of the match, setting up three of the goals; Cani, Ruben and Rossi all had good games as well. I thought Bruno was well off his best today, and Diego López looked indecisive in goal (and Capdevila seemed to be giving him some flak about it). And clearly we need to work on defending set pieces, and we need stronger defensive play over 90 minutes in midfield. But let's not lose sight of the fact that we end the first half of the La Liga schedule in third place on 39 points, our best-ever at this stage of the campaign. Endavant Villarreal!!