In a cold Calderon, Villarreal extracted some measure of revenge for the last match of the 2011-12 season, defeating Atletico Madrid 1-0 with a late Vietto goal.
As expected, this was a tight match; Atleti pushed Villarreal back into their own end at times but struggled to find Manduzic to create real pressure on goal. Their best chances came from a shot outside the box by Koke in the 18th minute that just flashed wide, and a half-chance for Tiago that shouldn't have been allowed anyway.
Villarreal didn't do much better; it was hard for Cheryshev to make an impact, and Vietto's best opportunity to do something was cynically stopped by Arda Turan hauling him down and earning a yellow card, and a later Villarreal break was halted by Junanfran taking a yellow for a deliberate handball.
Cheryshev missed a great chance to set up Vietto on a 2-on-1 break, instead shooting tamely at Moya. It did seem as the half went on we were more comfortable and able to force Atleti into a number of fouls, many of which were even called! However, the referee missed an obviouls deliberate handball from Gabi that should have given us a penalty, the defender twisting his body to knock the ball away with his upper arm. Overall I'd say Villarreal shaded the first half, but were prevented from having any great chances on goal through Atleti's physicality and deliberate fouls.
HT Atleti 0-0 Villarreal
The chess match continued in the second half with Villarreal looking relatively comfortable in containing the Atleti attack, and beginning to have more success in using the speed of Vietto and Cheryshev. In fact, the Yellows could have taken the lead in the 50th minute, but Vietto's quick shot was just wide.
Atleti looked more ill at ease, but nonetheless it would only take one strike to give Atleti the lead, and they had a good chance in the 55th minute from a free kick but Asenjo saved from Manduzic. Later the Atleti striker did have the ball in the net, but it was waved off for his push on Mario. I'll just say that made up for the missed PK in the first half.
The home side was starting to create more danger, and Pina and Moi came on for Uche and Trigueros, hoping to reshape the side a bit, especially as Griezmann came on for Raul Garcia for the home side (Trigueros's last contribution being to be hacked down--no call--on the edge of the Atleti box).
These changes seemed to work a bit, because Villarreal started to create some breaks of its own, though Jonathan dos Santos and Vietto couldn't get on the same page. And Vietto's first touch totally let him down when Cheryshev put him in with only Moya to beat. But our speed--especialy Vietto's--was creating chances, if we could just make one count.
As the clocked moved into the last half-hour, it was Villarreal who were controlling the play, and Diego Simeone brought in Cerci, who provided some excellent crosses, and Mario Suarez in an attempt to give his side more in attack. They did have a couple of half chances--Godin heading over from a Koke cross, and Tiago firing over-- but Asenjo and the back four were unperturbed.
Villarreal should have taken the lead they deserved in the 82nd minute when Moya stoned Cheryshev as his strong strike headed for the top corner, but it was Luciano Vietto who broke the deadlock; Bruno Soriano tussled with Mario Suarez for the ball in midfield, found it and got the ball to Moi Gomez, who evaded a defender and played a forward pass to Vietto. His first touch this time ws marvelous--he completely turned Diego Godin around, and as Miranda vainly chased behind, Luciano lashde a shot over Moya and into the net. Cue celebrations on the Villarreal side of the pitch, but there were still five minutes plus injury time to go as the rain rained down.
Vietto, Jonathan dos Santos and Tomas Pina combined for an excellent move that nearly resulted in a second goal for us, but the final ball was lacking; Vietto came off for Rukavina. Godin had a chance with a header, but put it wide and was called for a foul anyway; the ref added three minutes of injury time, with Simeone wanting more. I guess we had Jonathan as our striker; Rukavina wasn't sure either, as he played a ball forward to no one in particular with two minutes left. Asenjo grabbed a free kick, but Cerci created a corner with a minute left, the ball just going out before Villarreal could clear it.
The match ended with Atleti not terribly happy, both for the first home loss of the season but also because they had a throw-in in the attacking end when the ref signaled time, just a few seconds after the three minutes. Villarreal celebrated, and here in California, champagne corks popped!
Other results were favorable to Villarreal, with Sevilla held at home by Eibar and Athletic Club drawing, so we are still in 6th but only three points out of fourth place. Well done, Submarine!