Marca might have been right to call it the matchup of the depressing sides this season, but the game turned out to be rather entertaining!! As expected, Camunas took the place of Marco Ruben, otherwise Villarreal's lineup was the same as last week. Negredo and Kanouté were both able to start for Sevilla, unfortunately.
The first half featured a good deal of enertainment, a bit of controversy, and two goals. Let's say straight away that Villarreal showed up for this one; those of us worried that Molina couldn't produce decent road form can take heart form that. Forget the Calderón, okay?
Both teams played to their strengths in the first half. For Villarreal, this meant Angel finding space down the right to lead attacks, with Borja, Cani and Senna in support. Joselu was our striker, but frankly was marked quite well for the first half-hour. Manu had the first opportunity for Sevilla but shot well over; Camuñas had a similar chance for us and did the same.
One noticeable difference for Villarreal from past games was that Cani was looking much better. Angel nearly found him in space in the box moments before, but the move that produced results started with Cani, involved a pass from Borja in the middle of the pitch to Angel down the right, and Angel put a cross right on to the boot of Borja, who had kept running into space. And he made no mistake with it, a lovely little touch into the open net in the 21st minute.
Sevilla responded by some nice work from Navas and Negredo, also Kanoute, that put pressure on our defense but didn't lead to anything, and then in the 29th minute Villarreal nearly had another goal--a Borja free kick was saved by Varas, who then kept out Bruno's shot from the rebound. And on our next attack Cani and Angel played a nice give and go, but the Canarian's pass was hit just a bit too hard.
At the other end Kanoute had a great chance but Diego Lopez stretched to tip his header over the bar. But then, as so many times this year, disaster struck. Navas, who had been roaming down our left flank at will, crossed a low ball into the box. Kanoute was actually marked pretty well, but the ball never got to him. Instead it deflected off the foot of Bruno and into the net. 1-1 in 32 minutes.
Joselu suddenly came into the match, first putting a shot just wide and then forcing two saves from Varas in the Sevilla net. And the bit of controversy came when Cani's cross from the byline was met by a sliding Medel, and the ball hit his hand. I wouldn't have called a penalty on it, but lots of other Villarreal fans would have (I haven't watched it again, I hasten to add).
But the last five minutes of the half had Villarreal under the cosh as Sevilla had a series of corners, but just before the half ended giant defender Fazio put one over the net. Sevilla had forced an ungodly number of corners but their only goal came from an unlucky deflection, and Villarreal had controlled the play.
HT Sevilla 1-1 Villarreal
Lots of discussion about whether Coach Molina should take off Joselu or Camuñas, or a midfielder, but he hasn't been one for making quick changes, and so it wasn't a surprise when we started with the same XI as before. Marcelino must've felt change was needed, though, because he took off Coke and Medel and brought on Reyes and Trochowski, going for attack and switching to a three-man backline; Navas was as close to a right back as he had out there.
Not surprisingly, Villarreal started attacking down that side, and in the 53rd minute should have taken the lead. Borja cut in from that side and worked a neat one-two with Cani, beating the offside trap. There was Borja, alone with Varas and the ball on his right foot. If he fakes a pass back to Joselu, he has an open net. If he just shoots, chances are he beats Varas anyhow. And if he makes a good pass back to Joselu, then he has an open net. The one way to ruin the opportunity was to get caught in between ideas, hit the pass too softly so that the grateful Varas, could claim it, and that is WHAT HE DID. AAAAAAAAGH!!!!!! (At this point my wife decided maybe she should leave the room for a bit, let's just say).
It was a wide-open game and both teams had chances, but Villarreal was definitely creating the best ones. In the 61st minute Camuñas, down the unguarded left again, found Cani and he put the ball on a platter for the onrushing Musacchio (and I think Joselu was also unguarded outside him). Our #4 hit the ball hard and true--straight off the far post. Another gilt-edged chance gone begging.
In the 69th minute another talking point, as Cani charged into the box and was clipped. It looked as though the contact was inside the box, but the referee gave a free kick to Villarreal outside it. It was really strange because none of the Villarreal players protested, as far as I could see. Certainly not Cani, who usually protests everything. Anyway, nothing came of the free kick, and then at the other end Diego Lopez made an incredible save from another Kanouté header, that man Navas supplying the cross. (He was just running Joan Oriol ragged, ragged, ragged).
Hernán Pérez replaced Joselu and immediately got in the thick of the action, but Sevilla broke out, Reyes was about to pull the trigger on a pass that would set Negredo one-on-one with López, but before he could do that Cani took one for the team and got as clear a yellow as you will ever see, with a WWF move to simply grab, hold and dump (gently) Reyes to the turf before he could make that pass. Trochowski's free kick was excellent, swerving in the air, but Lopez knocked it away for a corner, and Fazio headed over again.
With 10 minutes to go, neither team was settling for a draw. Jésus Navas and Borja Valero forced saves at either end, then came the thunderbolt. Marcos Senna controlled a loose ball in our half, made a short pass to Hernán Pérez who then laid it off to Joan Oriol. He in turn found Pérez running in space, and the Paraguayan reached the top of the box, then found the onrushing Cani. It almost seemed as though the ex-Zaragoza man had waited too long, but in fact what he did was draw the defense to him and make a perfect slide pass across to Javier Camuñas--WHO DID NOT MISS but fired a rocket across Varas and INTO THE NET!!!
Now Sevilla had to throw everything forward. Hernan Perez should have been in alone on Varas, but was incorrectly ruled offside. Sevilla were getting desperate, and unfortunately this meant a return to the flopping antics of last year (remember Diego Capel?). More unfortunately, the referee, who overall had done a good job up to that point (or at least much better than the La Liga average) now let himself get swayed by the home crowd and the flopsies.
Pretty much every Sevilla attack in the last five minutes of the match ended in fouls against Villarreal. First it was Reyes, going down under a Senna challenge. That led to another Trochowski free kick, but this one was well wide.
Then Jesus Navas leaped and won a free kick, with Joan Oriol booked (I honestly have no idea why). And Navarro's cross onto the head of Fazio.....was saved by Diego López. By now we were in the last minute of play, and Alejandro Martinuccio came on for Borja (Marchena had replaced Cani five minutes before) to kill some time. Our attack died when Hernán Pérez was called offside (maybe he was this time, I don't know) and from the resulting throw,the ball was pumped forward to Navas, who went down, earning Oriol a second yellow card. At least this time he touched him.
The ten men prepared for what would surely be the last play of the game. I can't say our defense had it terribly together, because Rakitic's cross was an excellent one, right on the head of Manu del Moral--and his header went WIDE OF THE NEAR POST AND WE HAD WON. I swear, I thought he had scored. Thankfully he didn't.
Diego López sank to the ground in relief, thanks, or exhaustion, I couldn't tell which, and the Sevilla fans whistled their disapproval. Which was a bit silly, but also understandable, but Marcelino never did make a 3rd substitution and I have no idea why, and it would have been unjust had they scraped a draw at the end. And Navas flopping around at the end was disgraceful (though I know the fans weren't whistling that)
FT Sevilla 1-2 Villarreal !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Our first win away from home in nearly a year (since March of 2011 at San Mamés), and we scored two goals, nearly doubling our output on the road for the season. And done without Ruben and Nilmar, I hasten to add. The bad part is all the yellow cards we picked up, which right now have Gonzalo, Bruno and Oriol all missing next Sunday's game against Granada. Gonzalo's yellow was clear, the first to Oriol and Bruno's not so much.
if Borja had taken his chance earlier, and we'd gotten a couple of breaks, it would have been more. But Sevilla had plenty of chances too, and Diego Lopez was HUGE--my man of the match. Cani probably second.
If the Super Bowl is anywhere near as exciting as this game was, it'll be great entertainment.