Villarreal defeated Almería today 2-0 in a scrappy encounter at El Madrigal, the Submarine's first victory against them since 2008-09. Villarreal was missing Mussachio through suspension, Marchena, Senna and Nilmar through injury; Marco Ruben partnered Rossi up front, Borja Valero joined Bruno in center midfield, with Cani and Santi Cazorla on the wings as usual, and Catalá came in to the back four. Almería's coach Oltra did as recent visitors to Villarreal have done, opting for a 4-5-1 with only Uche up front. This approach, combined with some aggressive tackling, succeeded in limiting the Villarreal attacks early on, but in the 23rd minute Capdevila was fouled; Borja Valero took the free kick and crossed it perfectly for defender José Manuel Catalá, of all people, to head home; the Almería defenders were simply not to be found. It is Catalá's first La Liga goal.
The remainder of the half was scrappy. Villarreal fans and players protested to no avail when Cani was fouled when attempting to jump for a Rossi cross in the area, but penalty appeals were waved away. Rossi had a good chance, saved by Diego Alves, but at the other end the only Almería opportunities of note were a couple of free kicks which went wide of the mark.
The first ten minutes of the second half followed the same pattern, but in the 55th minute Marco Ruben (who had a fairly anonymous game partnered up top with Rossi) was fouled outside the area by Diego Alves, and though nothing came of the resulting free kick Alves was soon called on to make a fine save from Cazorla, a minute later Rossi was hauled down outside the box, and Borja Valero curled in a fine shot over the Almería wall and past Alves. Frankly, that ended any drama, as the Villarreal defense continued to deal easily with any Almería attacks and the rojiblancos ran out of steam and ideas. The scoreline only remained 2-0 thanks to some fine saves from Alves; Rossi was denied twice, Cazorla again, and Capdevila and Borja both skied shots over the bar when they should have done much better.
Almería played with heart and pace, but little else; they never looked likely to score a goal and never created any sort of pressure in the opposition half. Piatti and Diego Alves were probably their best players today.
As for Villarreal, I thought the midfield played pretty well for the most part, though Santi Cazorla really only made an impact in the second half and Borja Valero, apart from his excellent free kicks, didn't stand out as much as one might have expected. The Rossi-Ruben pairing up top didn't work that well for me; partly it may have just been lack of time working together, but especially in the first half when Rossi created opportunities to pass, Ruben wasn't available. It was good to see Matilla, Montero and Altidore all come in in the second half and play well.
More will need to be done in the matches ahead: at home in the Cup against Valencia, then on Sunday at the Bernabeu. But a comfortable win and three points are a pleasant start!