A great escape to start the season in Almería. A last-minute victory in Elche. Come-from-behind draws against the Madrid duopoly. Maybe it was time to pay the piper.
Villarreal took the lead through suddenly prolific captain Bruno Soriano, but a last-minute phantom corner set off alarm bells at a sparsely-populated Estadio El Madrigal. Then Málaga captain Weligton headed home the equalizer with the last touch of the match, and the boquerones gained an undeserved point to perhaps save the scalp of embattled manager Bernd Schuster. 1-1 on the night, and a fortnight for the Yellow Submarine to stew.
A breakdown of the match by position:
- Goalkeeper. Sergio Asenjo was solid yet again - only the Getafe gaffe stands out in the demerit column. His double save on Villarreal killer Eliseu's shot from the edge of the box (around Rubén Cani's olé defending), then Pedro Morales' point-blank rebound was impressive. Particularly so because Málaga rarely threatened the rest of the evening. No chance for Asenjo on the last-minute goal.
- Defenders. Jaume Costa deserves credit for forcing the turnover and laying off the ball to Cani to spring Bruno's tally, but his clumsy takedown of Eliseu could have led to an early penalty. Mario Gaspar had his quietest match in a while - maybe he could use a rest. Gabriel Paulista continues to impress in man-to-man combat and deserved a penalty for beating Sergio Sánchez to a corner, but Weligton was his assignment on the last-minute equalizer. Mateo Musacchio just does his thing - a rock in the back.
- Midfielders. Bruno with another goal - that's three on the season. But he also picked up a fifth yellow card, which in conjunction with the sanction stemming from last year's Copa del Rey means he will not play until the return leg at Estadio Martínez Valero. A pity to miss the showcase at Camp Nou. Very little from Manu Trigueros and Javier Aquino: the youngster from Talavera was muscled off the ball by the boquerones' hard men, while the Mexican international is not helping his case for Brazil 2014. Cani set up the goal, but Villarreal needed more from him to kill off the match - not on this night.
- Strikers. Why was Jony Pereira on the pitch for sixty minutes? Inertia. Ikechukwu Uche forced a fine save early on from an excellent Willy Caballero, then scuffed a point-blank header from an offside position. His presence may have screened Málaga's netminder on the Bruno tally, but the Nigerian could have killed off the match on a better day. Giovani dos Santos returned from a knock to play the final half-hour and should have ended things in the 90th minute. But Willy stoned the Mexican international from six yards out, and the equalizer followed in short order.
Both Bruno and Marcelino were gutted by the loss of two points, but there are two teams in every match. Despite the refereeing, Villarreal should have done more to score a second goal. And the defending on the final corner was poor - what about men on the posts?
A fortnight's hiatus from La Liga with Athletic Bilbao now in fourth place. There should be plenty of motivation to close out 2013 on the right foot. Endavant Villarreal!