Villarreal's Copa del Rey adventure is over for another year, as the Submarine went down to Sevilla today 3-0, 6-3 on aggregate. Full credit to Sevilla, who did what they had to do, but tired legs and lack of concentration at crucial moments is what destroyed Villarreal.
Coach Juan Carlos Garrido surprised everyone by leaving Bruno, Ruben, Mario, and Capdevila on the bench, giving Montero, Altidore, Joan Oriol and Cicinho starts and moving Mussachio to midfield with Catalá coming into the back four. Whether this was a sign of surrender or an attempt to introduce some energy into the side with new players was unclear, but certainly in order to have a chance Villarreal needed to keep the score level for as long as possible, and this they failed to do.
An innocuous-looking cross from Romaric, a miskicked clearance from Mussachio that ended up being a perfect pass to an unmarked Renato, and in the sixth minute it was 1-0. More than a hint of offside, I thought, but no matter--Sevilla were in the lead, and knowing that Villarreal needed two goals to progress they were content to string five defenders along the back and let Villarreal take the initiative. This the yellow squad did, and Sevilla has goalkeeper Varas to thank for going into the halftime level. He made a brilliant save on a Gonzalo header from a Borja freekick, stopped Rossi when he had been put in by Altidore, and Mussachio just glanced a header wide from a fine Cucinho cross. At the half, even having given up the early goal, Villarreal fans had to feel encouraged that a goal would come soon and all would be set up for a nailbiting finish.
Unfortunately, Sevilla didn't get a copy of that script. Within a minute of the restart, Sevilla won a corner kick, and Kanoute rose above Joan Oriol to powerfully head home the corner. 2-0 now, and within three minutes practically a carbon copy of the last goal made it 3-0. Again a cross from the defense's left, this time Alexis got between Gonzalo and Mussachio and headed it home. In fairness to Diego López, I'm not sure he could have done much about either one. And that, pretty much, was that. Sevilla held out comfortably, Villarreal couldn't summon up the energy or spirit to raise their game, and will probably be relieved to have made it through the remaining 40 minutes without any significant injuries if nothing else. One wonders what might have been if Villarreal hadn't conceded those two late goals in the first leg of this tie. Oh well.
A few comments about players who haven't gotten much time to date: Montero started out well enough but faded away. He did track back more in defense than we've seen from him before, but still seems more of a threat off the bench for short periods at this stage. Jozy Altidore is definitely a work in progress. He did make a nice pass to Rossi which resulted in an excellent Varas save, but his first touch lets him down too many times. I believe the only shot he had on goal was a weak header, and as a strike partner with Rossi that's not enough of an impact. I really liked Cicinho. He is offensively-minded, so gives us more of a threat down the wing than Ángel. In the first half most of our attacks were coming down the right with Cicinho and Montero involved. Defensively he has experience, but he's not very tall, so not going to help out with the problems our defense has in the air.
Given our current injury situation and the number of matches we've played recently, one doesn't have to look too hard to find a silver lining in the loss-- midweek matches in the next two weeks against Madrid (probably) would have been exciting, sure, but physically draining. As it was, Villarreal looks a tired team in need of some rest--and also in need of some practice time defending free kicks and corners.
The five days before the next match in La Liga will be welcome, welcome too will be the return of Carlos Marchena to bolster the backline. But a disappointing performance tonight. No shame to go out of the Cup, but a tame performance on a night when we needed and hoped for so much more.