Villarreal looked very impressive today in dominating a Fiorentina side that has high hopes of the Champions League this season. The Submarine had a lineup that was probably close to what we might expect when the season starts, with a back four of Mario, Iniguez, Musacchio and Jaume Costa, a midfield of Cani, Bruno, Pina and Hernan Perez, and a front pairing of Gio dos Santos and Uche.
Fiorentina I don't think started their entire regular starting XI, but they certainly had many of their regulars out there, including Borja Valero and Mario Gomez. But from the start they had no answer for Villarreal's high pressure and speed, and often had trouble passing the ball out of their half.
Uche had a great chance but shot wide (sigh) with the goal at his mercy in the 21st minute after a great cross from Gio; then in the space of two minutes he put another shot wide and then a free header over the goal when it would have been easier to bury it. And then Gio hit a post, and seconds later put a one-on-one shot wide. It could have been three or four nil at this point, if we could hit the target.
Then Gio and Cani did the work down the left, Gio crossed to Hernan who made no mistake with an accurate shot fired across the keeper back in the direction of the pass. Excellently done.
HT Villarreal 1-0 Fiorentina
Subs began immediately in the second half, and to be honest most of it was rather disjointed because of all the substitutions. Aquino had a few good moments when he came on for Hernan, and Pina shot just wide after another Fiore giveaway, but things settled down a bit, with Villarreal content to defend in the middle of the pitch and break up attacks before they got anywhere--Pina was excellent at this.
Giuseppe Rossi came on at about the 70-minute mark to warm applause from the crowd, and he produced Fiore's best chance of the game from a dangerous free-kick from near the goal line that Alonso (I think) just couldn't put on the target.
Shortly after that came a worrying incident, when Mateo Musacchio jumped to clear a high ball aimed for Rossi and landed awkwardly, injuring his left knee. It didn't look good at first, and certainly Rossi seemed concerned for him as the physios checked him out. He did walk off under his own power and hopefully it won't be as serious as it first looked, but we won't know until tomorrow probably. The irony was that Pantic was waiting to come on for him anyway when this happened.
With about seven minutes to go Villarreal scored again, this time after breaking up a play in midfield, a pass down the wing that Perbet caught up to and crossed to an onrushing Jony Pereira, who made no mistake and slotted the ball home. (Jéremy had come on for Gio a few minutes before, and Jony for Uche).
As normal time expired our French striker scored a golazo, but he had already been whistled for a foul. And then just as the referee blew for full time, he slammed a shot off the crossbar.
FT Villarreal 2-0 Fiorentina
The Submarine looked really good--the speed of our play, the verticality, and the ability to create goal-scoring opportunities were all impressive. Unfortunately, the finishing was not. Uche just isn't going to get it done, I'm afraid.
Gio dos Santos and Tomas Pina were excellent, Pablo Iñiguez was very good, Cani was great too. It's hard to judge those that played only in the second half since things slowed down a lot with all the substitutions, but I was a little disappointed with Aquino; Jony and Jeremy obviously combined on the goal but didn't have as many opportunities to create chances as the first-half group did, since they were playing with a B team midfield at that point.
Villarreal dominated most of this match and could have won by more than the two-goal margin, but after all it was a friendly. I felt as though Fiorentina hadn't played a team with our speed, and as the game went on and the pace slowed down they were much more comfortable.
Overall a good win for us, we should be excited for the new season but keep our feet on the ground. And hope Musacchio is okay.