Where do I begin to describe this match? Statistical domination without scoreboard domination just about sums it up.
Highlights from 101 Great Goals:
From the first minute, when Santi Cazorla shot wide, Villarreal had numerous opportunities against a game Hércules club that was clearly second-best. The visitors opted for a 4-3-3, with Portillo and Tote joining Trezeguet up top. Lining up in their usual 4-4-2, Villarreal effectively controlled the midfield, but though its possession play often was a delight to watch, the final pass too often was lacking. Nilmar, in particular, seemed to struggle to get into the game early, and though Santi, Borja, and Cani were trying to pry open the defense with clever passes, they just weren't coming off.
However, Villarreal was doing a good job of winning the ball back quickly, and it seemed only a matter of time before a goal would come. In the 19th minute, Rossi collected a pass and headed in with only Calatayud to beat, but the offside flag went up--an incorrect call, I thought. Two minutes later, Herculés had no such reprieve; Cani gathered the ball from Capdevila in midfield, slipped a pass through to Rossi, and he beat the keeper with a low shot just inside the near post.
The visitors seemed to realize that they couldn't continue to sit back and admire the Yellow Submarine's passing, but they struggled to create anything themselves, with sloppy passing in the final third. Villarreal took a direct approach, looking to put in Nilmar or Rossi free on goal with fine interplay from outside the box. The best chance of the half fell to Rossi, but Calatayud pushed away his hard shot driven into the ground. At the half, Hercules had only one shot toward Diego López, a Portillo header that was well wide, and it seemed that as long as Villarreal kept attacking, further goals surely would come.
Right from the restart, Villarreal threatened again, with Pamarot hauling down Nilmar just outside the area, and Rossi's free kick went just wide of Calatayud's far post. In the next ten minutes, the yellow club threatened time after time--a Nilmar shot was saved, and Cazorla's shot curled just wide of the far post with the keeper beaten. In the 55th minute, Hércules had its first real threat of the game, but Marchena cleared the ball from danger. Villarreal should have been up at least 3-0 by now, but they weren't. Nilmar shot over, Santi produced a fine save, Rossi shot over the top--it just went on.
Kiko Femenía came on for Hércules in an attempt to create more up front, and they certainly did enjoy more possession as the second half wore on. Tote's main contribution seemed to be straying offside, but Trezeguet was clearly the danger man. In the 70th minute, Feminía nearly got the ball to Trezeguet, but Marchena's foot tipped the pass away. Villarreal removed Cani, who played well but certainly was tired, for Wakaso. Shortly thereafter, Rossi came off for Ruben, and then Musacchio replaced Nilmar. Juan Carlos Garrido (sitting in the front row at El Madrigal and clearly pulling the strings) clearly was ready to soak up some pressure and try to get the second goal on the break.
Wakaso's speed was impressive, but his shot less so--he mishit one, put another wide, and missed a fine opportunity to hit the open Santi at the top of the box--but he did well, and the crowd took to him. With four minutes to go, Hércules earned a free kick, but Tote's effort was poor and wide of everything. Three minutes of extra time: Hércules poured forward, but Gonzalo headed away the best cross that Trezeguet had seen all game. The final whistle went, and Villarreal had a valuable three points--and let's not forget, our first victory in La Liga in five matches.