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Villarreal 1-0 Real Sociedad: a thin lead to defend at the Anoeta

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Before a sparse crowd at El Madrigal, the suddenly Cani-less Yellow Submarine totally dominated a turgid match, but the narrow 1-0 win leaves all to play for in the return leg.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Villarreal got their win, got their clean sheet, but will be disappointed not to have scored a second goal on a day when visitors Real Sociedad were completely punchless.

The Submarine should have taken the lead in the first half, but first Gio dos Santos couldn't make contact with a perfect cross from Gerard Moreno, and then his brother shot wide from the top of the box with the net gaping.   La Real, meanwhile, created absolutely nothing.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half crawled along, and substitutions were clearly required, both to   keep everyone awake and suggest that someone, somewhere, might score.  The visitors blinked first, bringing on Canales and Agurruetxe for the ineffective Finnbogason and Hervias.  Villarreal responded with Bruno and Cheryshev for Jonathan dos Santos and Antonio Rukavina, who actually wasn't that bad on the right wing and had little defending to do.

The subs--Villarreal's, anyway--proved to be useful, as about 10 minutes later Chery scored from a perfect Bruno diagonal pass, the Russian's shot beating the keeper and going in off the far post.  In the remaining 20 minutes, Villarreal forced a number of corners, but created nothing from them; Gerard Moreno nearly got on the end of a cross or two, and Vietto (who replaced Gio with 15 minutes left) just couldn't get to a Cheryshev cross that could have resulted in a goal.  And La Real, meanwhile, created absolutely nothing, unless you count a Canales yellow card for throwing the ball away and generally acting unhappy.

Of course, last year these two teams drew 1-1 at the Anoeta (though that was the first leg) so maybe a 1-0 lead will be enough, but I can't help thinking one more Villarreal goal in the tie, whether tonight or in the Anoeta, ought to see us through.  Though I expect David Moyes will go for a more attacking side, probably with Vela, in the return leg.

The major worry for Villarreal is Giovani dos Santos.  He looks a shadow of the player we had last year, and the slim crowd at El Madrigal was visibly happy when Vietto replaced him.  Pina, Jaume Costa, Gerard Moreno, and Moi Gomez all played well, but Cheryshev and Bruno came on to get the job done.

Endavant Villarreal!!