It wasn’t always pretty but Villarreal played one of their best 90 minutes of football of the season so far, despite the injury problems coming into the game. While the injury situation got worse as the game progressed, Villarreal can take heart from the fact that there are some positives in this game, the most important being the three points. Villarreal move out of the relegation zone to a provisional 13th in the La Liga standings with 10 points from 10 games. Onwards and upwards. Next-up Manchester City.
Thoughts before the kick-off
What a calamitous 2 weeks for the Yellow Submarine! Villarreal drew with Getafe followed by three losses to Manchester City, Levante and Real Madrid respectively. Villarreal also lost star striker Giuseppe Rossi due to an ACL injury for six months. Dark and threatening clouds over Vila-real as well as the future of coach Juan Carlos Garrido. Today's game could be pivotal in determining the future of the Valencian. Going into the game, Villarreal languish in the relegation zone with 7 points from 9 games.
Rayo Vallecano come into the game with two big wins on a trot, beating Málaga at home and Real Betis away. They have lost only one away game out of five so far. The team from Vallecas has shown that they can play very well and without fear as they showed at the Bernabeu. This game is going to be anything but easy for Villarreal.
No surprises in the line-up, although many expected Garrido to blood-in some of the youngsters like Hernán Pérez and Wakaso Mubarak. Villarreal lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with lone striker Marco Ruben supported by Cani and De Guzman on the wing and Borja Valero behind Ruben, sort of as a mediapunta. If such a thing like a 4-2-2-1-1 exists, you could say Villarreal lined-up that way.
Villarreal XI : 4-2-3-1
Diego Lopez; Zapata-Gonzalo-Musacchio-Catalá; Senna-Bruno; Cani-De Guzman-Borja;Marco Ruben.
Rayo Vallecano XI : 4-2-3-1
Cobeño; Tito, Arribas, Jordi, Casado; Javi Fuego, Movilla; Lass, Michu, Piti; Tamudo
Nothing surprising in the Rayo line-up either. Movilla the main man in the midfield, with Lass, the biggest threat of Rayo, on the right.
Villarreal came out of the blocks quickly. They were more aggressive, pressing higher than usual. While the possession stats favored Rayo at the end of the first half, Villarreal looked dangerous when they had the ball. There was a purpose to their movement and passing. Rayo was employing a high backline to pressure Villarreal but they were leaving a lot of spaces for a counterattack from the yellow side.
Around the 20th minute Villarreal scored through a header from Bruno Soriano off of a free-kick by Borja Valero from the right side. This is the first ever goal of the hardworking and tireless midfielder in the Spanish Primera. The header wasn’t the cleanest one, but Bruno made contact from close range inside the 6-yard box.
The goal definitely had a positive effect on the team play. Rayo started attacking more but their play in the final third of the pitch was poor.
Injury bug strikes
Just when Villarreal started looking comfortable, Cani had to leave the field due to a knee injury. Camuñas came on for him. The current diagnosis is a sprained knee, they'll test it on Monday to diagnose the exact issue. Hopefully it is nothing serious.
Rayo had injury problems themselves when Raúl Tamudo hobbled off the pitch. Koke came on for him.
As the half continued, Villarreal created more opportunities but it was evident that they were missing a second striker. Borja Valero was very active throughout the game. In the absence of Rossi and Nilmar he was forced to play in a more advanced position and this might actually turn out to be a good thing for him and the team.
Senna misses a penalty
Around the 37th minute De Guzman got clipped inside the Rayo area after a great solo run, though he went down pretty easily. Senna took the penalty but his shot to the right of Cobeño was parried away by the Rayo keeper. It wasn’t the best of the penalties but still needed a very good save from Cobeño.
Lass had one very good run for Rayo in the first half where he skipped past three players of Villarreal but they didn’t do much apart from that move.
HT Villarreal 1-0 Rayo Vallecano
2nd Half - more injuries!
Marco Ruben got injured a few minutes after the restart. An adductor muscle injury, the extent of it is still unknown. If it is anything remotely serious, he will be out for the Manchester City game. Hernán Pérez came on for the Argentine striker.
Garrido also took off Senna who complained of some physical trouble too. Oblivious to this, the crowd booed Garrido for taking him off and introducing Mario Gaspar in his place, thinking Garrido was going defensive I guess. He was, but he had few options there, and he played Mario on the right wing, as he had against Madrid. He tried to shore up the defence against a Rayo team devoid of creativity and quality in the final third.
Consequently, Villarreal switched to total counterattack mode. Rayo had more possession but they couldn’t do much with it. Around the 60th minute Rayo subbed out the ineffective Movilla for the more attack-minded Trashorras in search of the equalizer.
The defence played well as a team today. Zapata had a great intervention to break up a great chance for Michu around the 62 minute. Just when it looked like Rayo was pressuring more, Borja scored our second goal with a great run from the right and shot from outside the area that beat Cobeño. 2-0.
Borja Valero deserved that goal for his great work-rate and intelligent play today. The 2nd goal put a damper on the Rayo spirits. Rayo made another attacking change to bring in Dani Pacheco for a fullback, Tito in a bid to score. But Villarreal defended well to see out the rest of the game.
De Guzman missed a tap-in towards the end after a great cross (again!) from Borja Valero but Cobeño just about saved it. The Dutch midfielder should have done better there.
FT Villarreal 2-0 Rayo Vallecano
A richly deserved win for Villarreal. The margin could have been bigger if they took a couple more of their chances. 3 crucial points to boost the morale of the team as well as give some breathing room for Garrido. But injuries to three more starters--and Camuñas, who sprained an ankle late on-- are a huge cause of worry. At this rate the team may not have enough players to fill the 18 man roster for the Champions League fixture!
Villarreal played without a striker for almost 40 minutes in the 2nd half. 4-6-0 might be our standard formation until our strikers are back healthy.
Manchester City, the next opponent of Villarreal in the Champions League, won their league game 3-1 at to the Wolves.
!!Endavant Villarreal !! Siempre Endavant!!
Villarreal, 2: Diego López; Zapata, Gonzalo, Musacchio, Catalá; Cani (Camuñas, 24’), Marcos Senna (Mario, 48’), Bruno, Borja Valero, De Guzmán; Marco Ruben (Hernán Pérez, 48’).
Rayo Vallecano, 0: Cobeño; Tito (Pacheco, 66’), Arribas, Jordi Figueras, Casado; Movilla (Trashorras, 58’), Javi Fuego, Lass, Michu, Piti; Tamudo (Koke, 20’).
Goals: 1-0, min. 20: Bruno. 2-0, min. 67: Borja Valero.
Referee: Javier Turienzo Álvarez.
Yellow-cards: Jordi Figueras (19’), Arribas (34’), Piti (34’), Javi Fuego (37’), Michu (70’), Catalá (73’) y Diego López (86′).