A quick recap here--Sidarth will contribute a longer one tomorrow. And I won't say much more than I already did in the gamethread comments, because that about sums it up.
Marcelino's team selection was baffling, and it didn't work at all.
Putting Bruno Soriano in the back line as an emergency centerback meant that Pina and Trigueros had to play together in the pivote, and neither is defensive enough. Trigueros is an out-and-out offensive player who wants to pass forward from there, and Pina is used to getting forward, with Bruno as cover in the pivote. Without him there, Pina was constantly caught out of position and was lucky not to be booked in the first 15 minutes for repeated fouling.
Perhaps Jokic was tired from playing for Serbia in midweek, but if ever a match cried out for him in the back, it was this one. Jaume Costa offers little defensively, so playing him there just exposed Bruno even more! Riki basically had a four-lane highway most of the match. Jokic probably would have gotten cautioned, but I guarantee he would have offered a lot more defensively, and probably as much going forward.
And up front....Gio dos Santos couldn't go, so....Jony? Really? He's fine as a late sub who can catch out tired legs with a burst of speed, but as a starter, no. He can't hold onto the ball, so there's no way for Uche to link up with him.
Can you tell I think Pantic, Jokic and Perbet should have been the starters?
And why Aquino wasn't included in the squad I don't know, but Moi Gomez was poor today. Aarggh.
Anyway: from about 10 minutes in Granada were the better side, but the referee gave them some help they didn't really need, awarding a penalty for a Bruno lunge at Riki in the box. It was pretty soft--though there was contact, it was really incidental to the play. Rico converted it and Granada led 1-0.
Amazingly, only a minute or so later there was almost an identical play at the other end, this time Riki was the lunger rather than the lungee, taking down Oliver Torres. Referee Muniz Fernandez (a/k/a "Jellyhead") awarded a free kick, claiming the contact came outside the area. Another one of those calls you can argue about.
However, to focus on these incodents might suggest Villarreal deserved to go into the break on even terms, and we certainly didn't. Our attack was nonexistent and, in contrast, Granada looked dangerous every time they came forward.
A second goal followed when Rico played a perfect pass forward for El-Arabi to run onto, Bruno being beaten for speed and Gabriel not able to shade him off either. Asenjo might have done more, I guess, but it was a fine shot.
HT Granada 2-0 Villarreal
Cani immediately came on at the break for Moi, who lacked confidence and a good first touch today. And within 15 minutes, Pantic and Perbet had come on too, replacing Manu and Jony. I can't say we really looked like scoring very much, though Gabriel had a header over the bar off a corner and a nice Cani-Perbet move in the box was called back for a nonexistent offside.
But overall, we were still not creating any significant pressure--too much passing, not enough shooting, and too much of the passing was straight ahead where a defender could easily block the play. Cani showed some moments of gliding quality, but was clearly rusty, many of his passes going astray.
To be honest, as the game clock wore down I was mostly hoping Jellyhead didn't do anything to hurt us for the next game. Gabriel had been our only player booked (in the first minute of the second half, as Brahimi beat him and he had to foul), and in my opinion he was lucky not to get a second yellow. He and sub Dani Benitez jumped for a ball, Gabriel's elbow came up pretty high, but the ref didn't see it.
FT Granada 2-0 Villarreal
Marcelino's comments after the game were valid--we lacked intensity--but overall it just seemed as though we had a group of players who didn't really have a plan of how to play today, and some players who shouldn't have been put in the positions they played. To be honest, I find it hard to name a man of the match for us today--I guess maybe Oliver just because he tried some attacking moves all game, though his youth showed and he was pretty much by himself in the first half.
This was probably the worst Villarreal performance I've seen under Marcelino, certainly in the Primera, and I'd have to go back to the relegation season to find one as bad. Maybe the Mallorca manita. Ouch.
It's fair to say we have injuries, it's fair to remind ourselves we're a newly promoted side, but we all know we can and must do much better than today. I think the Champions League is a distant dream now, and to be honest, I would almost prefer to see Athletic Club defeat Valencia tomorrow. We need to watch out behind us, as between Villarreal, Sevilla, Valencia and Levante, there will only be two Europa League places. (I'm figuring La Real will pass us for 5th).
Sorry to be so pessimistic, and hopefully Marcelino will reflect on things and get everything turned around. 4 points from the last 15 is not good.