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Villarreal and Valencia Share Derby Spoils

Welcome to the big time, Sr. Molina. Keep it up.
Welcome to the big time, Sr. Molina. Keep it up.

On paper, Sunday's Valencian Community derby at El Madrigal was the most imbalanced in league history. Villarreal and Valencia had met twenty-four times in La Liga-- with nary a goalless draw-- but fifteen places had never separated the two sides. The visitors trailed only the big two, while the hosts were in the relegation zone after Racing Santander's victory on Saturday.

Villarreal manager José Francisco Molina made his 'A' team debut in front of a spirited but restless crowd. His first tactical decision met with general approval: returning to the traditional 4-2-2-2.


Villarreal: D. López; Ángel, Zapata, Gonzalo, Oriol; Senna, Bruno; Borja, Cani; Ruben, Nilmar.

Valencia: D. Alves; Miguel, Rami, V. Ruiz, J. Alba; Topal, Banega; Feghouli, Mathieu; Jonas, Soldado.

First Half:

Villarreal took it to the visitors in the early stages. Joan Oriol was flying down the left flank, and our two strikers linked up well. That connection produced the game's first tally: Marco Ruben burst through a few defenders, then laid the ball off to Nilmar. The Brazilian returned the favor-- perhaps by accident, but give him the benefit of the doubt-- and Ruben made no mistake, beating Diego Alves in a one-on-one.

Ruben 1-0 13'

A great start to the match, and more was soon to follow. Feghouli had a decent chance at the other end, but his tame effort was collected by Diego López. Valencia then conceded a cheap free kick, which typically results in a wayward Villarreal effort from distance or an easy clearance. But not today.

Borja Valero played in a great cross, one of several on the day, and one of our center backs rose to meet it. In this case, Argentine defender Gonzalo Rodríguez was unmarked in the box. Though Diego Alves got a hand to the header, the shot's power carried it into the net. Gonzalo's first goal in nearly a year.

Gonzalo 2-0 17'

Two goals up on our high-flying rivals under twenty minutes into the Molina era? We'll take it. But the team took its collective foot off the gas, and Valencia gradually came into the game. Roberto Soldado was a danger to our defense and the referee's ears, cajoling Villarreal's four first-half yellow cards.

On the stroke of half time, Valencia got the goal its performance and our shaky defending merited. After a one-two, Portuguese right back Miguel hit the cross of his life on a half-volley. It plopped right on Feghouli's head at the penalty spot, and he made no mistake in front of a helpless Diego López. As Janusz Michallik noted on the ESPN3 feed, it was a one-in-a-million cross. But Gonzalo completely lost his marker, the only target in the box.

Feghouli 2-1 40'

The game remained open, with chances at both ends to close out the half. Villarreal missed a golden opportunity to restore its two-goal advantage on the stroke of half time. Marcos Senna, who played a sparkling match, won a cheap free kick, allowing our center backs to move forward. Borja picked out an unmarked Cristián Zapata at the penalty spot, and the Colombian rose well to meet the ball. With the goal at his mercy, Zapata headed over, something we have seen time and again from the former Udinese man. Zapata is still looking for his first official Villarreal goal, and thus the half came to a close.

Half Time: 2-1

Second Half:

As the astute Michallik predicted, the second half was a more closed and cagey affair. Villarreal contributed to a number of Valencia's best chances by turning over the ball near the edge of its own box. Soldado found the net from an offside position and shot just wide, while Borja elicited a fine save from Alves. But concrete chances became difficult to come by.

Valencia manager Unai Emery rolled the dice tactically, bringing on Pablo Hernández, Tino Costa, and Aritz Aduriz (a reported Villarreal loan target). Molina responded with 'B' team players Gonzalo Castellani (for Cani) and Florian Lejeune (for Gonzalo, who had a knock). Both youngsters responded with solid performances and did not needlessly weaken Julio Velásquez's side. Another positive for the new manager.

With five minutes remaining, Javier Camuñas replaced a largely ineffective Nilmar to bring home the points. Molina's first defensive-minded adjustment, and unfortunately it did not produce the desired result. A hopeful long ball from Adil Rami was nodded on, finding the feet of Zapata in the Villarreal box. The Colombian center back's weak, off-balance clearance only went as far as Aduriz at the edge of the box. Aduriz collected and delivered a fine low finish across Diego López, silencing most of El Madrigal.

Aduriz 2-2 86'

A cruel blow at a moment when Valencia did not look dangerous. The visitors had spells when they looked close to the equalizer, but not late on. Aduriz's tally sucked the spirit out of Villarreal, and the match petered out to a draw.

Full Time: 2-2

A decent result on paper, but blowing a two-goal lead at home is painful. Particularly against your bitter rivals, whom you outclassed on the day. We also blew a late home lead against Sevilla, though with ten men.

Lots of positives from Molina's debut, but plenty of work remains. We'll have more during the week, but right now Villarreal sits in the relegation zone. So a string of results is imperative, continuing next Sunday away to Atlético Madrid.