Villarreal picked up a valuable three points today with a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win over a game Rayo Vallecano, but lost two more players to injury in the process. The Yellow Submarine had the better of the play in the first half, and both Roberto Soldado and Cedric Bakambu had opportunities to break the deadlock, but the first put his half-chance over the bar, while Bakambu blasted his shot from an angle off goalkeeper Yoel, who knew nothing about it.
Rayo took a lead shortly before halftime--Villarreal failed to close down Jozabed as he ran toward the box and received a throw-in, and he blasted a shot past the diving Areola. Villarreal received a further blow when Jaume Costa fell awkwardly by the far touchline and injured his ankle; he didn't return for the second half.
HT Villarreal 0-1 Rayo Vallecano
Marcelino decided not to throw on the young Miguelón at right back, instead bringing on Samu Castillejo and shifting Jonathan dos Santos to right back. This was a chancy decision as Jona was already on a yellow card, and the first 15-20 minutes of the second half were dominated by the visitors, who played as if they were the home side, with confidence and panache. Areola had to make a couple of key saves, and Rayo would pay for failing to put the game away with a second goal.
Villarreal equalized in the 69th minute, with Victor Ruiz starting the move, finding Castillejo whose cross was a bit behind Bakambu so he let it run to Soldado, who slipped a beautiful pass through to the just-on-side Bakambu. He made no mistake, and it was 1-1.
Ten minutes later, Bebe turned Jonathan dos Santos inside out on a run down the Rayo left and although the danger was cleared, Jona remained on the ground clutching his left knee. Hopefully it was only hyperextended, but as in Costa's case, he fell awkwardly and so we wait to see if it's anything worse. Mateo Musacchio replaced him, Eric Bailly moving to right back.
Villarreal came up with a lovely winner four minutes from time, Manu Trigueros slipping a pass to Denis Suarez who sprinted toward the byline and crossed the ball back for Bakambu at the near post. Keeper Yoel got a despairing hand to the ball, but couldn't keep it out as Villarreal celebrated.
FT Villarreal 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
As with the Eibar match, this was a spirited encounter between two teams in search of a big three points, and it could have gone either way. Bakambu obviously gets MoM consideration for his two goals, but kudos too to Roberto Soldado, whose work rate continues to amaze, and Victor Ruiz, Adrian Marin and Areola who played well in defense. Denis Suarez also looked good.
The injuries are a concern, and I'd like to see Ruiz and Musacchio as a regular centerback pairing now. Maybe Bailly will move to right back if Rukavina can't play? We'll find out on Thursday when the Submarine takes on Viktoria Plzen.