If you listened to our podcast you know the Villarreal USA "braintrust" expected a close hard-fought game. Well, we didn't really get that. But, while some of our preview might not have been spot on, the importance of an early goal to settle the nerves and force Numancia out of any defensive shell turned out to be correct.
As it turned out, Villarreal scored not one, but two early goals. Highlights are here.
The first few minutes were inconsequential, but it was clear well-placed through balls could open up some holes in the Numancia back line. In the 10th minute Bruno (I think) played a perfect one to Cani, whose shot eluded the keeper but might have missed the far post too, had not Perbet made a perfect run to tap the ball home. Three minutes later, an attack with numbers ended with Gerard Moreno placing a perfect cross and Tito Canteros slid the ball into the goal.
Numancia offered next to nothing in attack, Cedric demonstrated speed down the right wing but little else. Villarreal had numerous opportunities to prise open the visitors' defense and score a third, but poor final passes from Mario, Cani, and Aquino ended the threats. The major concern was the referee, whose interpretation of the rules was difficult to understand at times. Bruno's yellow card seemed questionable, while Regalon got away with repeated fouls on Perbet. To be honest, Chechu Dorado should have probably been given a yellow for breaking up a Numancia counterattack with a professional foul and didn't get one, but it did seem as if every 50-50 call went the visitors' way.
Perhaps because of that, but maybe because it seemed a bit too easy, the home side's attention began to wander. In the 39th minute a bad giveaway from Javier Aquino on the edge of our own box caught Dorado and Musacchio out of position, and Pedro Martin scored for the visitors.
El Madrigal exploded with whistles when midfielder Sunny, who had already been booked for repeated fouling, cynically tripped a Villarreal player and didn't receive a second yellow. At halftime, a dominant performance, but not a dominant scoreline...
HT Villarreal 2-1 Numancia
Just as an early goal settled things down in the first half, so one did in the second--even sooner this time. Two minutes into the second half, Juan Carlos collected the ball in his area. hit a long punt to Gerard, who evaded both central defenders and put a nice low shot just inside the post to the keeper's right.
And yet....a more dangerous team in attack than Numancia surely would have punished our defensive lapses and made us work harder for the three points. Natalio should have done something better than fire the ball into the stand when unmarked in front of Juan Carlos, and we allowed the boys from Soria to have far too much buildup play and didn't pressure them enough in their end. Nonetheless, JC really didn't have a lot to do, as the final ball just wasn't there to trouble him. Fortunately.
Marcelino substituted Senna for Canteros and Uche for Moreno around the 60' mark, and Senna did seem to settle the midfield down some, but to be honest we were looking fairly uninspired, having little possession, and our coach wasn't happy. However, with just over 10 minutes left, a Senna corner was headed goalward by Musacchio, defender Regalón stopped the ball with his hand, and, miracle of miracles, the referee and his linesman saw it and awarded us a penalty!! Perbet took it, and hit a great one high to the keeper's left to give us a comfortable 4-1 lead.
At this point the game was certainly over, and Numancia clearly wasn't interested any more and wanted to hit the road for home. Jony Pereira came on for Perbet after his penalty goal, and in the 86th minute Jaume Costa, Cani, and Jony's pressure ended up with a goal for Uche. And it still wasn't over; just as injury time began, Mario received a through ball, and his attempted cross caromed off Regalón and into the net, denying Jony his goal.
FT Villarreal 6-1 Numancia
Five goals last week, six this week. I'd love to predict seven against Murcia, but somehow.....
This is only the second time Villarreal have scored six goals in a Spanish league match in recent years. The first was February 15, 2004, when Villarreal defeated Racing Santander 6-3. Interestingly, the sixth goal that day was also an own goal, from Pablo Casar. Our other five goals came from Belletti (2), Riquelme (a penalty), José Mari and Sonny Anderson. And two of Racing's goals came from Yossi Benayoun! Wow. The only current Villarreal player who appeared in that game was.....Javi Venta!
(We did defeat Breda 6-1 in a Europa league qualifier in 2009, and AaB 6-3 in a CL qualifier in 2008.)
Positives: well, six goals, of course. MOM for me was probably Perbet. He really worked hard, took a lot of fouls, and scored two goals. I was also impressed with how often he tracked back to win the ball when Numancia tried to attack. Gerard played well also, and Canteros had an excellent first half. And hey, we seem to be taking Juan Carlos for granted, but well done that guy. Excellent clearance for our third goal, and his usual outstanding anticipation of potential attacks--a headed clearance outside his area, for instance.
And, let's mention it again--goals for us in the last 15 minutes of games. What a difference a year makes.
Negatives: Aquino had an off-day, so too did Dorado, and Jaume Costa's defensive frailties were exposed a number of times. More generally, just lack of focus when we went 2-0 up--sloppy passes in attack, and failure to close players down in defense. Once we started playing again, it was all over...
With the results this week (Girona and Almeria wins against 10-man teams (!), Alcorcon losing to Racing) the top group now looks like:
Elche 69, Almeria 58 (+17 GD), Villarreal 57 (+20 GD), Girona 57 (+17 GD), Alcorcón 56, Las Palmas 54. A five-point gap to the next group of clubs.
Nine games remaining: we have 5 at home (Racing, Elche, Girona, Xerez, Almeria); 4 away (Real Murcia, Lugo, Alcorcón, Barca B). We can do this!! Siempre Endavant!