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Villarreal amble out of the Copa del Rey

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An first-half goal from Iñaki Williams was all Athletic Club needed to defeat a poor Yellow Submarine 1-0 (4-2 on aggregate) and advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

These two do not like each other.
These two do not like each other.
Maria José Segovia

A poor second-string Villarreal side crashed out of the Copa del Rey today at the hands of experienced cup campaigners Athletic Bilbao.  Going into the match, the question was whether coach Marcelino Garcia Toral would make wholesale changes in the squad that dropped the away leg 3-2.  Would Bakambu, Soldado, Bruno, and Denis Suarez find the pitch?  No--in fact Bruno was scratched from the squad due to a slight twinge and Manu Trigueros replaced him, and Soldado and Suarez came on only as subs, Bakambu watched from the bench.

Eric Bailly was the central figure of this match--his poor defense let Iñaki Williams slide in side and slot a low shot past Barbosa at the 20-minute mark.   Villarreal needed two goals at this point, but with Rodri and Pina in the center of midfield rather than Bruno and Trigueros, there was just no attacking passing threat and no spark.  Whenever Nahuel or Samu Castillejo attempted to provide something from the wing they were hacked down, referee Velasco allowing repeated fouls without going to his book.

HT Villarreal 0-1 Athletic Club

Samu Garcia, whose main contribution to the match was being led to the sidelines by Velasco immediately after the start to put on his shinguards (!), came out on the hour mark, Soldado replacing him.  This did raise the temperature of the match a bit, but not the quality of the football.

Eric Bailly, when he wasn’t writhing on the ground with his shoulder knocked out of joint again, was engaged in a personal battle with Aduriz.  Both were lucky not to get second yellows, but that was about as entertaining as it got.   With little ability to win the ball back quickly in midfield and the visitors retreating in numbers, Soldado and Baptistao were forlorn figures.  In fact I’m not sure Soldado touched the ball in the last 25 minutes.

FT Villarreal 0-1 Athletic Club

I’m sure Marcelino expected better from his starting XI, especially since they had scored twice and taken a 2-0 lead before collapsing late.  But to be honest Los Leones hardly needed a goalkeeper today, and we could have played all night and not scored.

Sr. Roig said we were not prioritizing this competition, and our effort today was reflective of that.  I suppose if Athletic Club have an easy road to the final while Barca/Atleti/Sevilla/Valencia knock themselves out to get one of them there, it will feel like an opportunity lost to go to a cup final, where the result is decided over one leg.  Otherwise, today feels more an indictment of the cup competition than anything else.

The other key will be for Villarreal to play well and take three points from the clubs they face in El Madrigal over the next few weeks--Betis, Granada, etc.--and consolidate their hold on fourth place.  If we are able to do that, I doubt anyone will remember this match when we look back at the end of the season.  I certainly won’t.