Villarreal fell today to Real Valladolid, 1-0, in a tight, physical match, and the score was probably about reflective of the teams on the day, sad to say.
In the first half, both teams battled in midfield for the most part--Valladolid attacked with some long balls and then tried to go down the wings, but didn't create much danger from open play. For its part, Villarreal tried to work through Gio dos Santos. This nearly paid dividends early when he crossed for Uche, but it was just wide of the mark--would have been an easy tap-in for the Nigerian. Another linkup between our two front men might have produced something, but Gio was incorrectly whistled back for offside when he was in with only Mariño to beat and a man to lay the ball of to open as well.
The footing appeared to be a bit slippery--both keepers fell down after taking kicks from their box--and with every ball being contested, it was difficult for either team to build up a rhythm. IN such a game, dead-ball opportunities are very important, and late in the first half Valladolid won two free kicks in a row in dangerous areas. The first was partially cleared, but Aquino jumped into and on top of Rama to concede a second one-- and from it, taken by Fausto Rossi, Rueda flashed a powerful header past Asenjo into the top corner of the net. Not sure he could have done much about it, though watching the replay he seemed to pick up the ball late and was pretty much stuck in the middle of his area.
The change in midfieid didn't work--Pina's passing was subpar, he committed a couple of clumsy fouls and was lucky not to get booked for one of them. Overall, a disappointing half for us--Mariño didn't have to make a save.
HT Valladolid 1-0 Villarreal
Marcelino stayed with his starting XI for the first ten minutes or so, but then brought on Jony and Manu for Moi and Pina. The ex-Mallorca man's last contribution was to get a Valladolid player booked for complaining about his multiple fouls, which was pretty humorous. Perbet soon replaced Gio, who after a bright beginning just disappeared.
There were plenty of rough clashes--Uche and Mitrovic, Musacchio and Javi Guerra, late on Mitrovic and Rueda, and in injury time Oscar and Aquino--which were the main incidents of the half. Villarreal had its best chance to equalize in the 78th minute--Manu's through ball found Uche, and Marino came out to block his shot. The ball bounced up and just over the crossbar.
In the last ten minutes Villarreal huffed and puffed; the Valladolid defense was equal to it, and Mariño was called into action again, saving a hurried shot from Perbet, and then catching Uche's attempted header, which to be fair didn't have a lot on it.
It felt as though the ref blew for time about 30 seconds early given the stoppage in extra time for Oscar. I actually didn't think he was that bad, considering how rough the game was. It was a bumpy pitch, too, which didn't help the continuity of play.
FT Valladolid 1-0 Villarreal
We thought it would be a tough match, and it was. Our back line played well; I expected more from Gio, and our wingers really didn't do much either. Uche and, later, Perbet just didn't have much service today.
Some of the problems we've talked about before remain: we can't cross a ball in the air well, and we find it hard to pass through a defense that's sitting behind the ball. Some long shots rather than low-percentage passes might help, I think.
Marcelino will be concerned with our passing--mostly terrible the entire game--and the failure of guys like Gio and Aquino to step it up today. Gio in particular shows how good he really is some games, but in others he just drifts. We needed him to be more involved today, and with Moi and Aquino unable to get to the byline and find anyone in a yellow shirt with the ball, it's no wonder we had so few opportunities to score.
As with Athletic Bilbao, a physical team poses problems for us on the road, and when they get the lead, our speed gets negated. Let's just put this match behind us and move on. Oh, and let's budget the €300,000 to buy Mariño back in the summer. He's clearly ready to come back.
A nice win for Valladolid and JIM, but we should have done better today. Oh well.