Villarreal’s first team took a short bus trip up the highway to Tarragona, and defeated Nastic 2-1 in a lively encounter. Nastic made it to the Segunda playoffs last year, and figure to be a decent Segunda side again this campaign.
Mateo Musacchio did not play, with his Milan transfer still up in the air. The first team was strengthened by several B team players, and Marcelino used a mix of experienced and less-experienced players in each half.
Villarreal took the lead early, Alfonso Pedraza poking home a rebounded from a shot from Afif—Aitor Cantalapiedra turned a defender inside out on the right wing to set up the chance. On 25 minutes Afif, breaking forward in the Nastic half for a one-on-one opportunity with Nastic ‘keeper Reina, was hauled down from behind by Ferran, who received a straight red card. Deserved, but a bit hard in a friendly, especially one of the first one of the season for both teams.
However, the lack of experience in the Villarreal midfield (Trigueros was our only ‘regular’ in there) meant the match wasn’t controlled very well by the team with the extra man—and Nastic equalized through a free-kick, a header at the back post to Emana getting past Barbosa (who looked as though he slipped on the play).
The introduction of Jonathan dos Santos into the doble pivote at the break immediately changed things, and Jokic and Mario both got farther forward to support the attack as well. Both had opportunities to score, as did Larrea, but Ondoa did well in the Nastic net to parry their shots. Finally, it was Roberto Soldado who broke the deadlock, with a lovely header directed in off the far post, Jokic providing the cross. The sort of shot that last year would have hit the post and bounded away, I think; maybe Bobby Soldier is going to have more goalscoring luck this season? Hope so.
Jonathan dos Santos could have made it 3-1, but just when it seemed the Submarine was coasting, Jokic, already cautioned, picked up a second yellow, courtesy of an outstretched arm into which a Nastic player ran and then flopped around holding his head like a gaffed salmon. Fortunately, the referee didn’t buy another nice piece of playacting in the box, carding Mosa for simulation rather than awarding the penalty he was after. Chances at both ends in the last ten minutes, but it finished 2-1.
Of course, the score really is not that important here, it’s more a look at individual players and how they work together. Here’s what I noted about our new guys (or returning loanees):
Afif has speed, but the game comes at him pretty quickly; he had a couple of chances to set Bakambu in on goal and just waited a bit too long in one case and overhit the pass on another. Still, good sensations.
N’Diaye was comfortable at CB with Bonera—of course most of the time they were playing pretty high up the pitch with Villarreal being up a man, but N’Diaye won everything he had to in the air and is comfortable with the ball at his feet. So, good display from him.
Pantic now is sporting some facial hair—it does make him look older—and though he and Ruiz initially didn’t communicate that well, he made a couple of key interventions to break up Nastic counters.
Leo Suarez did some nice things in his second-half appearance; he has a good sense of finding spaces in the attacking third and finding room for his shot. Cantalapiedra did a nice job setting up our first goal. Larrea committed a couple of silly fouls and got pushed off the ball in midfield fairly easily; Mario González didn’t link up with Soldado that much but had good moments.
I didn’t really notice a lot from Lozano in midfield to be honest, but nothing dreadful either.
Jokic’s Villarreal career was sort of encapuslated in his 33 minutes of play. He really did a nice job supporting our attack, had an assist and could have scored himself (remember, we had an extra man during this time), but he picked up a yellow for a fairly cynical trip on a player who had beaten him in midfield, and the second yellow, while admittedly created by the Nastic player, came from Jokic sticking his arm out to keep the guy from beating him.