It wasn't much of a La Liga showpiece to broadcast to Asia in prime time, and those of us who watched this match over Mother's Day breakfast needed lots of strong Spanish coffee to keep us awake. In spite of the buildup to the match and the cheap tickets offered by the barrellets to entice their supporters to come out and insult the Yellow Submarine, the stadium was far from full and the football far from outstanding as Mallorca and Villarreal combined for a snore-inducing 0-0 draw.
Villarreal, not surprisingly having battled Porto basically two days ago, looked tired from the start and the humidity in the stadium didn't help much. Perhaps part of it, too, was the unfamiliarity of the kickoff time--Pierre Webó admitted in midweek he wasn't sure how to schedule his Sunday preparations to cope with it, and he didn't have to worry about travel. At any rate, this game was played at a somnolent pace and moments of interest were few and far between.
Mallorca's game plan seemed to be largely built around De Guzman, Nsue, and Webó, taking advantage of Webo's height in particular. Other than that, their only other tactic seemed to be marking Borja--literally, as one of our members pointed out on the game thread.
In the first quarter of the game Villarreal had little success passing through midfield, but the best chance of the half came when Rossi collected a through ball from Nilmar and shot across keeper German Lux, but the ball rebounded off the post. In the second part of the half Villarreal had more possession, Mallorca conceded some corners but nothing much happened from them. Bruno and Nilmar looked especially tired; Santi and Borja were getting pushed off the ball, illegally or not, time and again. On the plus side, the back line, marshalled by Marchena, seemed comfortable, and it was great to see Marcos Senna in midfield. Webó and Nsue had tested Lopez with headers, but not seriously.
HT Mallorca 0-0 Villarreal
The two best chances of the game came in the first ten minutes of this half. First Nilmar snapped a shot that Lux palmed away with his right hand as it was heading for the corner--a fine save. Then a Mallorca attack ended with a Cendros cross to Webo, whose header produced an equally fine save from López--thankfully, since Webó was well offside but the flag stayed down. Maybe the linesman had fallen asleep.
Wakaso came on for Senna after 54 minutes, Cani for Santi Cazorla in the 66th minute. That captain's armband was getting passed around all over the place! And the pace of the game kept getting slower...and slower...and slower....
Mallorca had a few moments of head tennis at the other end with Nsue and Webó, but as the game wandered on it became clear both sides were less concerned about winning than not losing. Garrido tipped his hand when he brought on Kiko Olivas (!) for Giuseppe Rossi (!!) in the 76th minute. According to Radio Vila-real Kiko went to midfield and Borja up front.
At this point I'm thinking La Liga might have better luck marketing this to Asian insomniacs than football fans....
And suddenly, action of sorts! With 10 minutes to go Cani put Nilmar through but he shot straight into the keeper's midriff. Good save in that there was no rebound, but frankly given the force of the shot I think it just stuck in his stomach. Nilmar should have dome better (and might have been able to find Cani or Rossi bearing down on an open goal if he had passed the ball back, I'm not sure).
Chori Castro came on with a couple of minutes to go for Mallorca and made a decent run, but Mario covered it well. And near the end Wakaso picked up a yellow (seemed a stupid call to me) and Mallorca had a free kick, but of course nothing happened.
In spite of the three substitutions for either side in the second half, the board indicated only two minutes of injury time. In the second minute of it Nilmar almost had a chance with a through ball, but a Mallorca defender was able to get to the ball first, knocking it off the Brazilian. Sums up his day really.
Referee Jose Luis Paradas Romero decided that was enough and with barely a minute of injury time played blew his whistle to end the tedium. No one complained.
FT Mallorca 0-0 Villarreal
The one point today is useful for Villarreal inasmuch as one more draw would make it impossible for Sevilla or Atleti to catch us. As for Athletic, a draw in one of their final three matches would end any chance they would have of a fourth-place finish. Winning at Almeria would of course make all of this unimportant!
No surprise really that after the emotion and hard work against Porto Villarreal would struggle to get going today, and the odd start time guaranteed the heat (and humidity, especially) would only make things worse. And as we all know our main players have been overworked, given our injuries and depth problems. Still....
Pluses: Marchena marshaled the back four very well; he and Musacchio looked comfortable and Catala and Mario were OK. And Diego López was strong as usual, even when Webó was offside he couldn't beat him. Also, Marcos Senna played for 50 minutes or so. Great to see him on the pitch again.
Negatives: Borja and Santi looked sore (and I'm sure they were after the persistent unpunished little fouls they suffered today). Nilmar, in spite of one nice pass and one nice shot, had the worst game he's had all season. his first touch was off and his passes just weren't right. Rossi looked tired, too, and again tried to do too much himself at times (though I understand why--it nearly came off once or twice). Unlucky not to score on that one shot.
Bruno seemed tired too though he was the one player who seemed to play better in the second half. He covered a Mario mistake at the back and settled things in midfield. His slow pirouettes with the ball, which frequently scare me, are especially frightening when executed at half-speed, as it seemed they were today, but he got away with them!
MOTM: Hard to say if this match even needed or had one, but I guess Marchena for me. I'm not going to bother to put up a poll though.
The only good thing about the early start is that the team can get home sooner and have a bit more time before the must-draw (at least) match against Almeria on Wednesday.