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Almería 2, Villarreal 3: Effective If Not Stylish

Villarreal twice came from a goal down to defeat Almería in both teams' return to La Liga. Marcelino's substitutions came up trumps after Aquino, Pereira, and Trigueros helped to fashion three second-half goals.

Manu Trigueros, gamebreaker.
Manu Trigueros, gamebreaker.

It wasn't easy, but Villarreal got it done. 3 points away from El Madrigal to start the season, and what a way to do it. Here's how it unfolded: Almería 2, Villarreal 3.

Villarreal XI: Asenjo; Mario, Íñiguez, Musacchio, J. Costa; Bruno, Pina; Hernán, Cani; Gio, Uche.

I expected Jérémy Perbet, but Marcelino García Toral had other ideas. Villarreal debuts for Sergio Asenjo, Tomás Pina, and Giovani dos Santos, along with Primera debuts for Pablo Íñiguez and Jaume Costa. More changes (6) than holdovers (5) from the lineup that earned promotion.

In the opening half-hour, lots of the ball in the Villarreal end. Chances were sparse at both ends, but the home side had the better of the play. Finally a Villarreal shot on Esteban, but then came the goal.

Rodri 1-0 39'

Cani was beaten for pace down the wing -- he did not mark his man's run. On the subsequent pass into the box, Musacchio allowed Rodri to cut inside him and get to the near post. Nice touch by the Almería attacker across Asenjo -- nothing our new keeper could do.

HT 1-0

Our lack of intensity continued, and Marcelino had seen enough. He made a rather early change: Manu Trigueros for a disappointing Pina in 53'. No surprise to me, but it will take the ex-Mallorca man some time to adjust to our version of the doble pivote.

Then followed Javier Aquino for a pretty active Hernán in 58'. Two changes with over a half-hour left? Juan Carlos Garrido, eat your heart out. And then Jony Pereira replaced Uche in 62' -- instant danger followed from our in-form striker.

Dubarbier (o.g.) 1-1 65'

A loose ball gathered by Bruno, Manu found some space, released Jony, and a good bit of luck. Jony was looking to cross, but the unfortunate Dubarbier wrong-footed Esteban. Delight for the strong traveling contingent.

But Almería responded well to the setback, and both teams searched for the lead marker. Jony blazed over -- surely the next goal would win it?

Rodri 2-1 74'

Was it offside? No, because one of our defenders -- Íñiguez, I believe -- casually jogged back into the play. Was it handball? Maybe that aided the control, but hard to tell. The easiest of finishes for Rodri to smash past Asenjo.

A cruel blow, but Villarreal never stopped playing. Mario even attempted a chilena from a corner. The game opened up, and the home side pushed for a third goal. Then Íñiguez fell awkwardly attempting a sliding clearance and played on with one leg.

How did Gio miss in 82'? Just needed the slightest touch to get the equalizer. But redemption was soon to follow.

Gio 2-2 83'

A nice bit of sustained pressure led up to the goal. Jony with a chance, Cani with a steal, Manu with a shot blocked. Then Mario let in Aquino, who squared for a wide open Gio to tap in his debut tally. All to play for late on.

Jony 2-3 85'

And the Yellow Submarine made Almería pay. Manu's fresh legs started the counter. Gio drove at the defense, found space between two defenders, and squared for Jony. Yet another deflection, but this was the Galician's goal. And so it finished.

FT 2-3

Not the prettiest, most dominant win you've ever seen. But it's 3 points toward the first milestone: salvation.