I don't know what it is about Villarreal that brings out the best in Elche, but the illicitanos sure didn't play like a last-place team in front of 18,000 at their Martinéz Valero stadium, including over 600 Villarreal faithful who made the trip.
Villarreal took the lead early with a goal from Luciano Vietto in the 11th minute following a millimeter-perfect pass from Moi Gomez; it looked even better six minutes later when a shot from Mario Gaspar was palmed into the path of Ike Uche, who roofed it home.
However, Villarreal's penchant for committing individual errors in dangerous positions came back, and that, combined with some excellent Elche finishing, resulted in the match being tied up by the 35th minute. First it was Jonathas, finishing off a quick counterattack created when Jaume Costa turned the ball over on the left wing; then, Gabriel's too-soft pass at the top of our box led to Garry Rodrigues firing a golazo home off Asenjo's far post.
The Submarine could have had two more goals easily in the first half, with Trigueros and Cheryshev both unable to direct Vietto crosses on goal when in plenty of space. Meanwhile, man-of-the-match Sergio Asenjo made several flying saves to deny the franquiverdes.
HT Elche 2-2 Villarreal
As often happens in these sorts of matches, the second half was nothing like the first. Elche started the half better, but before long Villarreal were in the ascendancy--but there really weren't many great chances for either side. Elche were more willing to sit back and keep the game in front of them and not create as much space for Vietto and Cheryshev to run into, and when the Sumbarine did get into the attacking third with numbers, Elche were able to deflect our shots and crosses for corners, and we created little from them.
In the last minute of regulation, Villarreal had a dangerous free kick, but Bruno hit it directly into the wall. That pretty much summed up our day.
FT Elche 2-2 Villarreal
Hard to feel too bad about picking up an away point, especially given the quality of the Elche goals, until you realize Sevilla, Atletico and Malaga already went into this stadium and came out with three points. Not our best effort, but not our worst either. If we can win our next two (Malaga away, Athletic Club home) I think we'll look more kindly on this one.
Elche have to be disappointed too, inasmuch as they played their best match of the season, scored two excellent goals, and yet ended up with only one point. They sure seem better than Depor, Granada or Cordoba, don't they??
Man of the match: Asenjo.
Bruno next, then Vietto. Lucho faded a bit in the second half as the match tightened up, Bruno bossed midfield well.
Disappointments: Manu Trigueros--Guillem Balague (Sky Sports) had him as the young player of the year last season, but I've been expecting more than I've seen in too many matches, including today's. And Gio, who just seems a half-step slow compared to last year. Jaume Costa didn't have a good match either, with a key mistake, though he was much better in the second half.
And since we're so good at winning corners, could we please do something dangerous from them? A continuing problem, going back several years.
Ah well, we're still undefeated in 11 matches in all competitions, and we host Real Sociedad in the Copa on Wednesday.