Has Villarreal ever played a home opener later than September 10? Finally, a La Liga home match, and a big one against Sevilla.
Villarreal came out in a 4-4-2 (almost a 4-2-3-1) with Rossi partnered by Camuñas, Bruno and Marchena in defensive midfield, Borja and Cani as attackers. The opening 10-15 minutes looked rather like an early-season game, but at least Villarreal didn't get off to a slow start. The Submarine possessed the ball well enough, but didn't create much in the way of real chances. Meanwhile Diego Lopez had to make two fine 1-on-1 saves on quick attacks, one form Perotti and one from Navas.
The real talking point came in minute 22, when Perotti cut inside the too-slow Gonzalo and went down under a challenge from Diego López. By the letter of the law, I suppose referee Teixenes had to either ignore the contact totally or give a penalty and a red card for last man, but applying the letter of the law to such a clip seemed questionable.
Cani was sacrificed for César Sanchez, and although Negredo's terrible penalty was saved, the striker sliced home the rebound from a tight angle with César stranded after clawing desperately for the ball and Camuñas not quite able to get to the post in time to cover.
Surprisingly, after going a man down Villarreal seemed more comfortable. Referee Teixera Vitienes booked both Negredo and Manu del Moral for diving (the latter one, at least, was deserved) and Villarreal began to play some nice one-touch football, though it was hard to create sustained pressure. In the 34th minute Rossi collected a short pass form Bruno , drove forward between four Sevilla defenders and was taken down inside the box. He converted the subsequent penalty in his usual stutter-step fashion and it was 1-1.
The remainder of the half was actually dominated by the Submarine, despite being down a man, but no goals came.
HT Villarreal 1-1 Sevilla
Did anyone notice how few crowd shots we had today? Maybe something to do with all the "Liga Justa" posters and black card protests in the ground?
Anyhow, back to the action and the second half was in many ways more of the first, Villarreal despite playing 10 on 11 created some decent opportunities without quite being able to put them away. Meanwhile at the other end Negredo missed a great opportunity to score from a free header, putting the ball well over.
Sevilla brought on Kanouté and Rakitic in and things immediately started to happen, as Rakitic provided much more passing skill. Kanouté's first real action was to get himself booked for a foul on César, the keeper being upset that the Malian caught him with his boot (though the studs were not up, which probably kept Kanouté on the pitch). Meanwhile Villarreal also made a substitutino, bringing on De Guzman for Camuñas, and this began to work well too. The ex-Osasuna man had some positive moments, but crosses from the wing weren't what we needed, more direct play was, and De Guzman immediately offered that.
Villarreal's final substitution was to throw on Marco Ruben for Gonzalo, moving Marchena back into central defense. This paid immediate dividends in the 72nd minute when Ruben slammed home a left-footed rocket from a tight angle (from a pass by Marchena) to give Villarreal a 2-1 lead. Could we hold on? Sadly not.
With Kanoute and Negredo trying to get on the end of everything, Sevilla looked a more confident side. Had Villarreal had an additional substitution to make, I'm sure we would have, but as it was the back line of Mario, Oriol, Marchena and Musacchio had to hold out, and that seemed a tough task. Full credit to Villarreal for not just retreating totally into defense--I think Garrido knew we had to offer something going forward--but not having Zapata against those tall boys up top really hurt.
Sevilla actually "scored" twice (one clearly offside, one after a foul when Cesar comically miskicked and the ball went into the net), before Navas, who had done little all game to that point, put in a cross and the Villarreal defense watched as Alexis put a free header across Cesar and into the net with four minutes remaining.
Would Diego Lopez have stopped it? Probably, but even so, it was an unforgivable defensive lapse. Musacchio at least tried to get to Alexis but couldn't; Marchena was completely out of position. I think everyone was so busy watching the front two they let Alexis go.
Even so, the Submarine had two good chances to win it, with De Guzmán's header cleared off the line by Alexis and Ruben putting the resulting corner over the net. In the end the referee blew the whistle right on time and both sides could feel cheered, yet disappointed, with a 2-2 draw.
FT VIllarreal 2-2 Sevilla
It's always hard to figure out how to assess a team when they play shorthanded for as much of the match as Villarreal did, and without their first-team goalkeeper as well. I thought Garrido's tactics were pretty good, and I was encouraged to see Oriol in particular going forward and offering some width to the attack. I thought he was one of our better players today.
Bayern warmed up for their visit to El Madrigal with a 7-0 thumping of Freiburg, and even without Arjen Robben have to be looking forward to playing against our back four. Zapata and Musacchio have got to start for me--Gonzalo has looked really slow.
Marco Ruben had a great goal and had another shot saved as well--I just wonder if we try to go to a 4-3-3 again at some point so he and Nilmar could both get in there.
De Guzman looked excellent too--he has that desire to go forward and create opportunities, but he battles hard to win the ball back (maybe too hard now and then, since he picked up a yellow today).
Bad news is we lose Diego Lopez for the next league match, but at least he is well rested for Bayern. A bittersweet game, then, but positives to go with the negatives. For both teams.