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Villarreal slay the Sevilla dragon, 2-1

Villarreal defeated Sevilla with an excellent first 60 minutes of play in a hard-fought match with several injuries toward the end.

Maria José Segovia

This match began with the Yellow Submarine in the ascendant, with Bruno's early volley forcing a fine save out of Sergio Rico and Sevilla generally on the back foot.   However, a 10th-minute counter which ended with Eric Bailly receiving a yellow for a clumsy push on Kevin Gamiero slowed Villarreal for a bit,and Gamiero had at least a reasonable shout for a penalty on Victor Ruiz when he rounded the Villarreal defender in the box but was shouldered off the ball.

Villarreal began to create chances again, with another nice save from Rico, this time off Bakambu, and off their fifth corner of the match, Mario Gaspar received a Jonathan dos Santos corner, battled for possession and then struck a quick right-footed grass-cutter that keeper Rico was only able to get a foot on, but it still went inside the far post.

The 20 minutes of the first half after that goal were tight, intense, but uneventful.   Villarreal had six shots (three on goal), Sevilla one (a headed shot off a corner that was well wide).

HT Villarreal 1-0 Sevilla

The second half was even more physical and hard-fought than the first; Villarreal took a 2-0 lead through Cedric Bakambu on the hour mark, a tremendous counterattack started by Rpberto Soldado and including Mario Gaspar and Denis Suarez.  Sevilla threw on Mario, N'Zonzi, and, ten minutes later, Fernando Llorente, who always seems to score against Villarreal.

The ex-Lion King did so here, nodding home a Konoplyanka cross with fourteen minutes remaining, after the Ukrainian had neatly turned Mario.  Sevilla were actually playing a man down by this point, Kevin Gamiero coming off and unable to continue, even after the magic spray was applied.

Villarreal had injury concerns, too--Cedric Bakambu seemed to pick up a cramp and was subbed shortly before the Sevilla goal, Nahuel Leiva coming on and Denis Suarez moving up to second striker.

With the score 2-1, Villarreal seemed to realize they were a man up and tried to see the match out with some nice passing and a couple of half-chances, but were always going to be susceptible to Sevilla set-pieces, especially as the visitors kept physically punishing our players at every opportunity.  A prime example of this was Rami, who was already on a caution, barrelling into Soldado headfirst on a corner--that should have been his second yellow, but wasn't called.

As the four minutes of extra time wore down, Sevilla got another corner, and the pushing and shoving escalated to an entirely new level, with the referee letting it go.  Areola was able to make a save, Tomas Pina cleared off the line, and from the resulting corner, Villarreal were able to control the ball and rush forward as the game ended.

FT Villarreal 2-1 Sevilla

Conclusion:  Sevilla only seemed to wake up two goals down, and Konoplyanka and Vitolo only came into the match in the last half-hour; until then, Jona dos Santos had kept the Ukrainian at bay, but he disappeared in the latter half of the match.  Jaume Costa and Mario Gaspar had outstanding games for us, and it would have been a pity if all the fine work of the first 70 minutes had been undone with a second Sevilla goal.  Fortunately, it wasn't.

Concern obviously about Bailly, perhaps injured, certainly missing the Camp Nou match, same for Soldado unless we appeal the card and it's upheld.  As for Bakambu, hopefully he will be able to go.

Bottom line, three very tough points picked up, and we are now even with Atleti on 20 points, though with an inferior goal difference.