Thoughts on yesterday's loss:
(1) the long view. On December 15, 2012, Villarreal traveled to Catalonia for a football match and lost. We lost 2-0 at Girona in a Segunda Division match before 4800 fans. We were in the middle of an eleven-game stretch which would produce only two wins and would ultimately cost our coach his job. A day short of a year later, we traveled to Catalonia again--but this time to the Camp Nou to take on Barcelona, and missing two of our key players. So while we can be disappointed, we should also celebrate how far we've come in a year.
(2) Tactical change--not a bad idea, but hopefully a one-off experiment. Had Cani and Bruno been available to us, we certainly would have played our usual 4-4-2. Without them, Marcelino made the tactical decision to abandon our usual formation and go 4-2-3-1 against Barca's 4-3-3. I suspect his plan was to keep the game close and then introduce a second striker in the last 20-30 minutes.
That happened, actually--it was 1-1 with 30 minutes left--but it would have been a miracle given the play if that score had remained. And it didn't. The basic problem was we were missing our two best passers, and all we could offer instead, regardless of formation, was speed--Aquino, Hernán, Gio, later Jony. Which isn't worth much if you can't get the speed players the ball.
(3) We didn't put Barca's back line under enough pressure. As Robin commented, we didn't pass well. Some of this I attribute to Barcelona, for sure--they are great at winning possession back--but our decision-making wasn't great. As the match went on, and Barcelona turned up the pressure, we were content to clear the ball anywhere. We didn't pressure Barcelona enough in their half or in midfield to create turnovers that could lead to scoring chances,except on a few occasions (one coming in injury time).
(4) We battled valiantly and defended very well. Mateo Musacchio, in particular, was superb--Whoscored.com had him as the man of the match, even above Neymar. Mario was also particularly good (it wasn't a penalty for me, btw--no intent). And Asenjo in goal was great.
I asked the Blaugranes bloggers if they had anything to add after the match. Here's what one of them said:
"I've always loved the games between Barcelona and Villarreal as they've always been highly entertaining, and this one didn't disappoint. The only thing lacking was a couple goals, by both sides, then this game would've been pretty much perfect - I'm sure you guys have a bit different definition of perfect in games like this.
For all Barcelona fans the last minutes of the game were nerve-wracking as the final push by Villarreal had all the makings of a dramatic equalizer. This time it wasn't meant to be, but with the way you guys played against us, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid there should be no doubt that a Champions League playoff is a real possibility for Villarreal. Hopefully that will indeed be the case as Real Sociedad didn't do much justice to La Liga this season in the UCL."
(Nice he didn't remind us of our UCL debacle under Garrido!)
(5) So now, we move on. Although you go to the Camp Nou to win, realistically you can't expect to. We competed well, for sure, especially given our roster limitations. Time to turn to the Copa on Tuesday--if we can replicate our 1-0 win at Elche in the league, we move to the next round. And Sevilla at home in the league will not be an easy one. Endavant!!!