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Depleted Villarreal loses first leg against Monaco

A diminished Villarreal side fell to Monaco 2-1 at El Madrigal.

Villarreal v Monaco: UEFA Champions League Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

On December 7, 2011, Villarreal played their last game in the UEFA Champions League in a 2-0 loss against Napoli at El Madrigal during the group stage. 1, 715 days had to pass for the Yellow Submarine to be back in the competition, albeit not the same instance. This time Villarreal were facing Monaco in the playoff round.

Villarreal had to face the encounter with many absences. 8 players in specific. Monaco had some absences as well although they had enough depth to cope with said absences. Villarreal didn’t. Escribá had to improvise with Alfred N’Diaye in defense which proved to be a total disaster.

Precisely, the Senegalese defender made a rather clumsy and innocent foul on Thomas Lemar and subsequently Felix Brich pointed to the spot. Fabinho converted the PK to give Monaco the lead. Villarreal had to overcome the early setback and get back in the game. Trigueros and Bruno were often running the show in midfield with a string of decent passes.

With the passage of the match, Villarreal drew near the equalizer with Pato being the most incisive player despite him being not “fully” fit. On the contrary, Pato looked very lived and his movement was very dangerous and unpredictable for the Monaco defense. Villarreal’s perseverance were reward 10 minutes before the end of the first half. Roberto Soriano prolonged a header in the box off a Trigueros cross, Borré headed the ball one more time to tee Pato who was able to beat Subatic with a header. It seemed the worse had passed already for the Yellow Submarine.

Pato’s equalizer makes the 6th time he scores in his debut with a new team after having done so at SC Internacional, the Brazil national team, AC Milan, Corinthians, Chelsea, and now Villarreal.

Villarreal dominated the second half albeit not as incisive as the first half. In the early stages, Pato had another chance but his shot went wide. Moments later there was a controversial incident that could have changed the outcome of the game. Mario attempted a shot in the box but the ball was blocked by a clear handball by Bakayoko. Felix Brich did not signal to the spot, nonetheless. Enter the 71st minute, N’Diaye is tussling for the ball with Guido Carrillo and is easily displaced by the Argentinean forward who cedes the ball for Bernardo who makes a run into the box unmarked, and has space a time to release a shot that’s blocked off Mario Gaspar to make is way into the back of Asenjo’s net.

From then on, Villarreal made several attempts in search for the equalizer with no luck. Mario González made his official debut with the first team. Mendy was sent off in the 86th for a reckless challenge. Mario had a chance at the end but was cleared off by Subasic.

Villarreal will have to overcome the setback at the Stadio Louis II back in Monaco with a different game plan. The good thing is that Víctor Ruiz is no longer suspended for the game.

The outcome leaves a lot of interrogatives. The most obvious that N’Diaye is not a CB, and in fact, the club should look out for an extra defender. Bonera is 35 years old already and his legs will become naturally more tired because of his age. He won’t be able to play the majority of the games. I’m thinking, “Martín Cáceres is a free agent.” He joined Villarreal before in his first European adventure albeit he did not played a single game for the Submarine. Cacéres would not be the worse choice. Villarreal need to find a solution and they need to do it now since it’s still early in the season.

Onto the next game. The Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes awaits ahead...

Endavant Villarreal!