An ugly match in the Asian time slot on Sunday afternoon, as is often the case. A poor performance from Villarreal in Andalucía, as is often the case. And a chance wasted to recover from Thursday's European setback.
With card-crazy Undiano Mallenco misguidedly at the helm of a relatively clean match, Almería's Mauro dos Santos saw a straight red card for a last-man WWE takedown of Giovani dos Santos. Villarreal then anticipated 50 minutes to press for a winner, but captain Jaume Costa committed a second bookable offense on rojiblanco winger Wellington Silva - the on-loan Arsenal man was a constant menace. The hosts looked more likely to take all three points on the day, with Tomer Hemed putting over with only a defender to beat, but the scoreboard failed to operate.
Three takeaways from a disappointing jornada 27:
1. Tired legs for the Yellow Submarine. Villarreal has purportedly played the most matches in Europe since the start of 2015. And it has shown in the last few weeks, even with the extensive squad rotations by manager Marcelino García Toral. Much of today's XI did not feature against Sevilla on Thursday evening, but perhaps unfamiliarity resulted in yet another slow start. Not the ideal mix against a desperate team in the face of an expected late-game swoon.
2. Spanish referees are...special. The cardinal rule of officiating: don't become the focal point of the match. And yet Spanish international Alberto Undiano Mallenco has violated this tenet time and again. Today's match was no different - ten yellow and two red cards awarded for 31 total fouls. Not that either dismissal was unwarranted given the circumstances, but Costa's first yellow was rather soft, as were many other bookings that conditioned the contest. Chechu Dorado, Tomás Pina, and Antonio Rukavina were also cautioned among the Yellow Submarine's defensive nucleus.
3. The Champions League is falling out of reach. With only eleven matches left in the season, Villarreal now trails fourth-place Atlético Madrid by seven points, and third-place Valencia is a further point ahead. And Sevilla can pull three points clear of the Yellow Submarine with a home win over Elche later today, not to mention the nervionenses' high probability to advance to the Europa League quarterfinals. A top-four finish was never likely, but with the European setback on Thursday, this writer would have liked a stronger effort from a more full-strength team in Almería. But not to be.
On to the Sánchez Pizjuán for Thursday night's Europa League round of 16 return leg. Villarreal needs three goals to start the conversation about a comeback. It's extremely long odds, but at least the top guns are rested for the charge. Nothing to lose.