Villarreal could have wrapped up qualification for the Europa League knockout rounds with a victory today, but instead, they've made it quite difficult for themselves following a 3-2 loss to FC Zurich. Villarreal scored first with a goal from a corner (!), by Tomas Pina, but held the lead for all of a minute and a half before Zurich equalized; took the lead two minutes later with a Gerard Moreno golazo; but then conceded twice in the space of five minutes.
It was the manner of the goals against us that caused concern, especially in light of the last minutes against Sevilla and the Valencia match. The first goal was a classic mixup between Juan Carlos and Victor Ruiz--a speculative cross being misplayed so that Franck Etoundi got to the ball first and made no mistake with an open goal in front of him.
The second was even more ridiculous, with a free kick hoisted high in to the box by Buff; Berat Djimsiti, who was just onside when the ball was kicked, moved forward, no one went with him, and while I'm not sure he ever touched the ball--he certainly didn't change its trajectory--Juan Carlos sprawled at his far post but didn't make the save.
The third goal at least came from open play, but served to illustrate our defensive frailties even further; Victor Ruiz was unable to prevent a run to the byline and a cross from there, and Gabriel didn't pick up Yassine Chikhaoui, who easily scored.
Villarreal should have had a penalty and a chance to equalize ten minutes later--Espinosa was pulled back in the area by his shirt as he attempted to get to a cross--but the referee didn't see it, and so at halftime Villarreal were behind.
The Submarine's performance in the second half found new ways to disappoint. With the lead, Zurich were content to sit back and defend en masse, so that their back three wouldn't be exposed, and Villarreal never threatened to move the scoreboard again, unless you count a shot from outside the area by Rukavina that hit the post near the top corner.
Zurich could have scored a fourth goal themselves had the final pass not let them down, but Villarreal was continually poor--bad touches, a lack of width, and a general inability to figure out what to do and how to do it. We never made Zurich work very hard to defend their lead, believe it or not. An insipid half, a horrible half (as Javi Mata kept repeating on the radio). I can't imagine Marcelino will have much good to say about it.
With this loss, Villarreal drop to second in the group on 7 points, behind Gladbach on 8. Zurich have 4, and Limassol 3. If Villarreal defeat Gladbach in El Madrigal, we should qualify for sure (Zurich's goal difference is terrible), but even if we win that match, we would have to get at least a point in Cyprus to ensure we finish first in the group. If we don't win, it's possible Zurich or Limassol could pip us for second.
(1) Marcelino's lineup was too lightweight in midfield. Pina and Jonathan dos Santos together in the pivote didn't work, especially since Jonathan got a yellow card early on (15') so couldn't offer any defensive support. Pina scored a goal, yes, but from open play did not support the defense well.
(2) I don't understand Marcelino's use of Gio. He finally plays 90 minutes....in this match? He came off early when we were 2-1 down at Valencia; an odd choice.
(3) Vietto, Gio and Gerard together on the pitch didn't work. I guess Gio moved to right wing when Vietto came on, but to be honest I don't know for sure. One thing was clear, though: no one knew how to play with each other in that formation. Maybe we need to decide on a starting XI and run with it for a while, at least in the attacking half??
(4) Ruiz and Gabriel together might not equal one Musacchio. We miss the Argentine; without him today, the only real intensity I saw in our back four came from young Adrian Marín. We need someone to marshal the defense, we need someone who can compete and win headers. Do we try to pick up a centerback in the January market?
Villarreal need desparately to straighten things out on Sunday when we visit Espanyol. We've often done well there, so it would be nice to exorcise the "bad luck"--but more importantly, bad play.--by bringing home three points. Endavant!!!