In a match that was hardly a classic, Villarreal and Deportivo la Coruna played to a turgid 0-0 draw. Sympathies to the fans at the Riazor who sat through pouring rain to watch this one.
With so many players missing through injury, suspension, or international activity, Villarreal needed their replacements to come through with fine performances, and they did not. The front two of Pato and Santos Borré produced nothing, and Samu Castillejo was largely invisible as well.
Villarreal had a spell of control of the match in the second part of the first half, but after the break, Depor went from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 and essentially shut off any service from the midfield to the front two (not that we were doing anything with it anyway).
The most dangerous player on the pitch, Florin Andone, hit the post to Asenjo’s left from an overhead kick on the hour mark. Andone later forced a sprawling save from Asenjo on a bouncing shot that found its way through a forest of legs. When Andone left with seven minutes to go Villarreal fans breathed a sigh of relief—but his replacement, Joselu, forced Asenjo to make the best save of the match, parrying his close-range header over the top.
That chance came from a Depor corner, one of their ten; Villarreal had none. Shots, 13-4. Lessons from today? Probably that we should send Santos Borré back to Atleti, if we can; I can’t say B-teamer Mario Gonzalez did a lot more than Borré in the half-hour he spent on the pitch, but he didn’t do any less. Without Roberto Soriano, Sansone, Bakambu, and Cheryshev, we were essentially punchless.
Asenjo would be my MOTM for Villarreal, but José Ángel did a good job filling on for Jaume Costa, Victor Ruiz played well, and Bruno was strong in midfield as usual (and produced our only shot on target).
Real Sociedad could drop us to sixth if they win away at Malaga, and we’re now three points behind Atleti in the race for fourth. Unfortunately, these are the sorts of away performances we’ve seen far too often since we returned to the Primera—being able to grind out results in matches like this, the way Unai Emery’s Valencia used to do, or Simeone’s Atleti does now—is a skill that continues to elude us.
At least we have a couple of home matches to look forward to, and we should have a much stronger squad to choose from. Endavant!