Obviously you can't bring your "A" game every week, but when your coach says he's picked the team on merit rather than the necessity to make rotations, you expect a better effort than what we got today.
Espanyol took a page from Valencia's book, who in turn took it from Sevilla, defending in two lines of four. Without Bruno to make incisive passes, and Cheryshev to open up space with quick runs, Villarreal offered nothing. The visitors nearly opened the scoring in the 17th minute but Asenjo made an inspired far-post save; however, in the 24th minute they did score, a free kick clanging off the crossbar, off Felipe Caicedo's head and Victor Ruiz's back, and into the net.
The remainder of the half was no better. Villarreal had no spark and no ideas. Perhaps they could have been awarded a penalty when a wayward cross bounced awkwardly and hit the arm of a sliding Espanyol defender, but it didn't look intentional. And that, folks, was as exciting as the first half got.
HT Villarreal 0-1 Espanyol
The second half didn't get any better. Villarreal did try to step up its game a bit, and Sergio Marcos and Gerard Moreno coming on for Pina and the unimpressive Vietto prefaced the one bit of intelligent linkup play we presented in the box the entire game. However, in the 68th minute the game effectively was ended, and El Madrigal silenced, by a second Espanyol goal.
Sergio Garcia's intelligent runs and overall quality were evident the entire match, and he pulled the Villarreal defense out of position, then made a perfect pass to Caicedo. The Ecuadorian's first touch was good, easily beating Victor Ruiz. His shot, to be fair, was not that great, but beat Asenjo at the near post.
Garcia should have won a penalty before that when Ruiz took him down in the box, and he wasn't done yet, assisting 10 minutes later on another goal, Victor Sanchez following up when Asenjo could only parry the original shot into his path.
FT Villarreal 0-3 Espanyol
Quite simply, the worst match we've played this year, perhaps the worst under Marcelino since he took over (though I tend to forget the awful ones). Many of our players looked tired; Victor Sanchez and Sergio Garcia ran rings around us.
Hopefully we can pick ourselves up after this and grind out enough points to remain in sixth place. After today's result, that's the best we can hope for. Endavant!