Villarreal secured sixth place and Europa League football next season with a dour, tactical 1-0 victory over Elche today in a sunny El Madrigal.
The visitors had much the better of the early play and could have opened the scoring, a header from Jonathas palmed away by Juan Carlos and a shot by Mosquera from outside the box slamming off the near post. However, those two chances turned out to be the best the illicitanos produced all day.
Villarreal seemed to arise from its slumber after about 20 minutes, and strung together some passes which led to a goal, Vietto making a run to the by line, pushing the ball back to Jonathan dos Santos who found Bruno Soriano at the top of the area. He tried a chip that the Elche keeper got a palm to, but only as far as Joel Campbell, who headed into the open net. Elche players claimed for offside, but he was being played on and the goal was correctly allowed.
Villarreal could have made it two when an Eric Bailly header went just wide of the post.
HT Villarreal 1-0 Elche
The second half seemed to last for an eternity; Villarreal picked up its weekly injury--Jonathan dos Santos injuring his ankle around the hour mark. Marcelino had already taken out Joel Campbell for Bojan Jokic, so with Jona departing for Rukavina, we now had six defenders on the pitch.
Elche controlled play constantly but for all their possession, did little with it and Villarreal had better chances at scoring, to be honest, but keeper Manu kept out a couple of Trigueros blasts. Gio dos Santos came on for Gerard and had a shot from a penalty-area scramble saved as well.
The referee, who delighted in stopping play for perfectly fair 50-50 challenges and didn't let the game flow, added on five minutes for some reason, and Elche's best chance ended up being a whipped cross into the area that managed to elude two attackers and go out for a goalkick.
It wasn't pretty, but it was a win, our first since March 8: three losses and six draws in the league since then until today.
And with it, the Submarine is guaranteed to finish in sixth place again this season; Espanyol, Athletic Club and Malaga can't catch us now.
Congratulations, and congrats too to the Juvenil A side, honored before the match today. Endavant Villarreal!