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Villarreal Grabs Last-Minute Equalizer in Santander

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One point that felt like three, for my money. But that may not be good enough for a team aspiring to next season's Champions League. And third place is slipping out of reach, with our big-city Valencian rivals en racha.

We will have to make good on this point come Wednesday evening at home to struggling Hércules. We were fortunate to take a point in Alicante, so a rested starting XI better be prepared for the derbi this time around.

Highlights from YouTube below the fold:

3 UP:

  • Diego López. Racing may have let us off the hook on a few occasions, but our keeper deserves a lot of the credit. López made a number of fine saves, including in 1v1 confrontations with Ariel and Rosenberg. Despite conceding two goals, it seems that the Spanish international is on a roll. We sure needed it today.
  • Marco Ruben. He just keeps on scoring, doesn't he? The Argentine striker still commits a few silly fouls per match to allow a cornered defender out of jail. But he brings a desperately-needed aerial presence to our attack. Today's headed goal, off a nice cross from Catalá, was impeccably placed in the bottom corner.
  • Substitutes. After Juan Carlos Garrido was sent off in the 59th minute, his brother Raúl made all three changes in the face of a deficit. Cazorla (#1) came on and sparked Ruben's goal, but Gio restored Racing's lead two minutes later. On the 2-2 goal, Wakaso (#3) forced a dangerous free kick which led to consecutive corners, and Cazorla's cross was headed on by Mario for Nilmar (#2) to bundle home.

3 DOWN:

  • The back four. Capdevila took his first break of the season, as did our glue guy Bruno. Unfortunately, the quartet of Catalá, Marchena, Mario, and Musacchio also decided to relax, particularly in man-marking off the ball (which led to both Racing tallies). Only a heroic effort by Diego López avoided a goleada against La Liga's joint bottom-scorers. Hopefully we won't see this group in action together for a while.
  • Cristóbal Márquez. I feel bad for him, but it's plain that La Liga is a bridge too far for the 26-year-old. Only the manager knows why Cristóbal is ahead of Joan Oriol and Matilla in the pecking order. At least Raúl Garrido was watching the same match as the rest of us: his first change was to bring on Santi for Cristóbal.
  • Juan Carlos Garrido. Set aside the dropped points and even the failed experimental XI. I want to believe the manager's explanation of his sending-off, but even so, that flare-up nearly cost us. Additionally, his brother's substitutions were spot on and turned around the match. Maybe the elder Garrido needs a few pointers?