Villarreal relied on an unlikely hero in Mario Gaspar who gave Villarreal an early lead in the 25th min. For the majority of the match Villarreal dominated but like so many Villarreal matches of late, we were unable to hold on. It was the 90 minute when Diego Colotto tapped in a late equaliser.
Villarreal were without key men in Musacchio and Cani who were both unavailable with injury. The first half was surprisingly physical. It was a clearly nervy display from the Yellows, who adopted a English style of play with long ball strategy. Cheryshev seemed to be our only real outlet who could run at the defense with speed. Villarreal took the lead from a fine headed pass from Chery to the onrushing Gaspar, who beat his defender and scored with ease.
Victor Ruiz seem to show no love lost for his former side, as he took down every striker in sight. It was Manu who received the first yellow for an extremely physical challenge, and Jaume Costa somehow escaped sanction for a couple of very lusty lunges at Espanyol players which left him lucky to be on the pitch. After Mario's goal it was pretty much all Espanyol, but the Villarreal defense stood firm and Asenjo really had little to do.
HT Espanyol 0-1 Villarreal
Unfortunately, Gabriel, who had been very good in the first half, had to go off with an injury and was replaced by Chechu Dorado as the second half started. Villarreal settled down and returned to their passing style, but it didn't always click. In the 62nd minute, Uche was through on goal after a long ball from Ruiz. The Nigerian couldn’t quite find the goal.
Vietto played the role as a second striker as he keyed up with Gio in the 69th minute. The Mexican showed some impressive dribbling skills played the ball back to Vietto. The ball went flying towards the goal only to be headed off the line with the keeper beaten.
In the final quarter-hour Villarreal opted to play more defensively by bringing on Pina and removing Cheryshev, Gio having already replaced Uche so all our subs were used. This may have been the wrong decision.
Asenjo made some key saves as the Catalans upped the pressure. He was caught in a nasty challenge in the 83rd min as he was cartwheeled over Dorado. Minutes later he was called into action again as he brought down Christian Stuani; the ref deemed it a dive and carded the Parakeet player.
Nonetheless, it just seemed it was inevitable a goal was going to happen as the balls came flying in, and while Gaspar had a stormer of a game up until the 90th minute, he was caught ball watching as Colotto snuck in behind him to level the match with a left footed equalizer after Asenjo could not collect yet another ball crossed into the area.
I was glad to see Jonathan and Vietto starting; it was an excellent team choice as I would have been disappointed to see Moi start again. I was however disappointed about Espinosa. I feel he has proved himself to be ahead of Moi, and we could have used his speed today. But Uche and Vietto didn't work well together, and in the end we just had no ability to relieve the pressure.
It was a really disappointing match to watch as we could have really done with the points and confidence. But at least it wasn’t a loss. Anyhow we have a good run of easier teams coming up. If we can take advantage if this, and get some of our key players back, we should be back challenging for the European places again.