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Derby County 1-1 Villarreal: Eyewitness Match Report

Thomas McIlroy sends us this report from the friendly at the iPro Stadium.

Thomas McIlroy

I'll confess I hadn't seen any of Villarreal in pre season before Sunday's match at the Emirates against Lyon, but I was then pleasantly surprised with a great performance against what was to be honest quite a lacklustre Ligue 1 side, but today's game against Derby was much more of a test for El Submarino Amarillo.

As a Fulham fan as well as a Villarreal fan, I know a bit about the Championship and for me Derby are one of the favourites for promotion in the upcoming season. I'd have taken a draw before kick off with the Rams' season kicking off two weeks before Villarreal's.

There were around 25 away fans in the Villarreal end (out of a crowd of 17,000+), including a few I recognised from the Penya El Madrigal. I think most of those supporting the Submarine were English, which is good to see us getting a bit of recognition over here. Derby's stewards were good as well - closing the food and drink kiosk but making up for it by offering us whatever we wanted on the house.

In terms of the game, it's hard to draw too much from it as it was merely a pre-season friendly. For me, Aleksandar Pantic had a good game at centre half - as he did against Lyon - when he was on in the first half, and he could be a real option to start if he carries on that form. Jaume Costa made a great challenge to deny Derby a goal and Leo Baptistao scored again - although the goal was all about a great long range shot from Antonio Rukavina parried badly by Derby keeper Lee Grant. I also thought Aleix Garcia (a former student of mine when I was working in Vila-real) looked good in the middle of the park, spraying the ball around very nicely.

The second half felt even more like a preseason friendly for Villarreal. Derby had most of the game, but from a fitness point of view, that's definitely not a bad thing. Pablo Íñiguez and Victor Ruiz took turns at partnering Manu Trigueros in midfield and it's safe to say they won't be playing there when the season starts. The most worrying thing was the amount of times Derby got in behind the Villarreal defence - the equalising goal is a case in point. I thought Eric Bailly looked more raw than composed, and he gave the ball away for the penalty. While it was a save by Areola, it was more of a miss by Darren Bent - he hit it so slowly that Areola could have probably got up and dived the other way had he gone in the wrong direction.

It was by no means all bad, there was a lot of lovely football played around the box. Samu Castillejo looked bright again and I'm really looking forward to seeing him this season. Trigueros hit the post after a lovely move just before Derby's equaliser - and the team seemed to switch off before the goal. There was a lack of cutting edge up front - captain for the day Jony Pereira ran and ran but never looked like scoring. If the Roberto Soldado rumours are true, he could be what the team is missing - but I hope it's not at the expense of Gerard Moreno, who's looked good in the two matches I've seen.

Overall, it's hard to draw too much into the match - it's a pre-season friendly pure and simple. But it was a good experience for the team to play in front of a noisy Derby crowd. For me, it was a new experience to jump up and celebrate a goal by myself! Leaving the stadium was also fun, with the Derby fans pointing me out and one of them saying 'there he is, there's their fan!' quite loudly (I assume he thought I was Spanish and couldn't understand).

On to Everton now for what has been a successful English tour so far, I wish I was going!