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Two late Osasuna goals hand Villarreal another road loss

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Marco Ruben scored a nice goal today, but it wasn't enough. Yet again, Villarreal manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Marco Ruben scored a nice goal today, but it wasn't enough. Yet again, Villarreal manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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It had snowed in Pamplona during the night, the pitch was hard and the evening cold when Osasuna and Villarreal kicked off. The two teams started off at a furious pace, and Villarreal gave as good as it got. The referee was willing to keep his yellow card in his pocket and simply whistle fouls (maybe giving the players the benefit of the doubt with the field conditions), so the game flowed along at a torrid pace.

The only yellow card came to Osasuna's Sergio for a handball early on--Villarreal couldn't produce anything from that free kick, and though Osasuna had the ball in the net from a lovely flowing passing move and smash home from Raul Garcia, he was obviously offside. The first twenty minutes or so were slightly dominated by Villarreal, then the next five or ten (slightly) by Osasuna, the rest was fairly even.

The good news for Villarreal was their back four (Mario, Zapata, Musacchio, Oriol) looked good and Bruno in the sweeper role, playing quite deep, was effective. Senna was playing rather forward, Cani and Borja Valero were running and passing with aplomb, and yet, dangerous attacks didn't happen much. Partly this was due to Marco Ruben lacking in confidence--he tended to either be late reading a pass or be offside when it was made, I have to say.

Villarreal's best chance came from a Cani run down the left, his pass to Ruben was good but Ruben's pass back to a wide-open Cani was just behind him. Eventually Borja did get a shot away, but it was blocked.

Raul Garcia looked as if he suffered a hamstring twinge and came off for Osasuna, while Borja got hit with a high boot and was stretchered off, but seemed OK and returned quickly. The Navarra side kept playing with Borja down, but fortunately didn't produce anything. An enoyable half in spite of the lack of goals, and 0-0 was a fair reflection of the play.

HT Osasuna 0-0 Villarreal

The rojillos started off the second half in menacing fashion, with Lamah and Nekounam in midfield forcing play forward. At 52' Nekounam slammed a shot off the crossbar from outside the box with Lopez beaten--an incredible strike, but the woodwork saved us. Three minutes later Ruben had the ball in the goal at the other end, but was correctly ruled offside, yet again.

And amazingly enough given my anti-Mario rant in the team selection discussion, he was doing pretty well, making much better passes than usual and doing a nice job supporting Cani down the right. And it was from this side that Villarreal took the lead in the 64th minute. Camunas and Borja fought for the ball on the left and won it, passed to Senna in the middle, who found Cani on the right, who slipped the ball through to the (on-side and not fouling for once) Ruben, and he slotted it home. Could it be?

Well, no. With Nilmar, Joselu, and Hernan Perez on the bench, off came Cani--and Castellani came on for him. Strange. To be fair, Castellani did well, but this change robbed us of our MOTM and our main speed threat--Castellani played more centrally than Cani had. And Osasuna used their other two subs.

It all looked good for 75 minutes. Villarreal was doing a good job closing down Osasuna attackers, and the back four was looking comfortable. But Osasuna was blocking our counterattacks and challenging for everything in midfield, and from a poor pass under pressure (Joan Oriol, I think it was heading the ball back towards our goal when fighting for it near the center area) Osasuna pounced, the ball falling to Lamah down the left. Bruno tried to cut out his cross by some sort of backward flick and missed (I'm not sure what he was trying to do) and Musacchio left Ibra for some reason, so the center forward had space to fire the equalizer home.

Worse, this being Villarreal's season of disaster, was yet to come. In the 82nd minute another giveaway let Cejudo in on Lopez, but a diving Oriol cleared the ball away for a corner. Before the corner was taken, Garrido made another confusing substitution. Senna off, yes--he was clearly tiring and had made little impact since the goal--but for Gonzalo? And our Argentinian veteran must have bad karma or something, because the corner was taken deep toward the edge of the box and Sergio rose between Mario and Musacchio to head the ball home.

The last ten minutes were forgettable. Nilmar came on for Musacchio with five minutes to go but though Villarreal tried to create a chance or two, nothing happened.

FT Osasuna 2-1 Villarreal

One point I should make straightaway: apart from the big two, Osasuna is the best team we've played. They deserve to be where they are in the table.

Does Villarreal deserve to be where it is? Not on today's evidence--this was probably the best away match we've played since what, Barcelona last year? Or against Athletic, our last away win, nine months ago? But a loss is a loss.

Afterward, the Villarreal players looked visibly gutted. If this was a game Garrido had to win to keep his job, and I think most of us feel it was, no one can accuse the players of quitting on him. And for the first 70-75 minutes Garrido's team looked great, the defense looked confident--then the roof fell in.

A key point that has to be made is that all the positive sensations aside, we created no chances apart from the one that led to our goal. We possessed the ball, we played quickly, we moved the ball laterally better than we have all year, but (a) the player who could have got round the Osasuna defense, Hernán Pérez, never played, while Camuñas was our weakest attacker today; (b) as we discussed on the last podcast, Marco Ruben was a triple threat--fouls, offsides, and goals. Unfortunately, there were way more of the first two than the last.

Somehow Villarreal has to pick itself up and care to defeat Mirandés on Wednesday. I am still shaking my head at the way this game played out, and I honestly don't know what else to say about Garrido's future at this point that hasn't already been said. With Villarreal either 17th or 18th going into the Christmas break, Sr. Roig has a decision to make.