On to Granada on Friday, say the Villarreal players and manager. Well, Marcelino García Toral probably will sit upstairs for a couple of matches for the gumption to say that a foul was a foul. How dare he.
Jérémy Perbet and Jony Pereira scored the goals on the week, with Rubén Cani brilliantly assisting on both. Pablo Íñiguez and Mario Gaspar were at direct fault on the goals against -- Sergio Asenjo had little chance.
Five takeaways from Villarreal 2, Espanyol 1 and Real Betis 1, Villarreal 0:
- Lineup changes. Four moves by Marcelino against Espanyol: Íñiguez for Chechu Dorado, Tomás Pina for Manu Trigueros, Hernán Pérez for Javier Aquino, and Perbet for Jony. Six(!) more against Betis: Dorado, Trigueros, Aquino, and Jony returned to the XI, Bojan Jokić unconvincingly debuted for Jaume Costa, and forgotten man Ikechukwu Uche replaced Giovani dos Santos. Just about everyone in the squad, save Moi Gómez and Aleksandar Pantic. A lot of rotations -- no surprise in our first multi-match week.
- Goals for. Credit to Hernán for a good cross from the outset against the periquitos, dancing around two defenders to get the ball into the box. Cani did the rest, winning the header at the top of the box and directing it into an onrushing Perbet's path. Our French finisher made no mistake, slotting past the Espanyol keeper first time for an early lead. More from Cani to kill off Espanyol's resistance midway through the second half, taking a through ball from Bruno Soriano and flying past his marker. A precise pass across the box left a tap-in for Jony into a yawning net. Three points in the bag.
- Goals against. Against Espanyol, Íñiguez was undressed by the enigmatic Sergio García, who barreled into the box from a tight angle with only Asenjo to beat. Maybe you would like Asenjo to better cover his near post, but our keeper had no real hope for a save other than a strike into his body. And the Espanyol frontman made no mistake. On the Betis tally, Jokic, Dorado, and Mario have little to be proud of. Jokic was sucked in and allowed a long ball over his head, then the initial shot. Dorado clumsily blocked the strike into the path of Joan Verdú, and Mario did not follow Nosa on the rebound from Asenjo's initial save.
- Negatives from our victory. Villarreal did not show a killer instinct against Espanyol, allowing the fatigued periquitos (on 24+ hours' less rest) to hang around for most of the match. Granada will be in the same situation, albeit with an extra day's rest, so let's see if we have learned anything. Íñiguez was unimpressive against a physical target man, so we continue to await the debut of Gabriel Paulista. On the flip side, Hernán and particularly Cani were phenomenal in midfield. Nice to see the Paraguayan find his niche after a long injury layoff.
- Positives from our defeat. Cani earned a clear-as-day penalty just prior to the Betis goal, but Carlos Delgado Ferreiro did not budge a finger. A yellow card for simulation if not a spot kick, no? And Aquino was fouled on the edge of the box, then inside the box, just before full time. The result: a measly corner kick. Chica stayed on the pitch after a takedown of Gio while on a yellow card, but maybe he rode Mario's luck from a prior incident. All in all, there was no shortage of Yellow Submarine attacks in Seville, and a point was the least we deserved. But that's football. Not as pleased with our defending, however -- only Mateo Musacchio looked comfortable despite a paucity of verdiblanco chances.