Not much to say about today’s loss to Ponferradina except it’s the Copa, and Villarreal just never seem to get going very quickly in this thing. Javi Calleja played a young, experimental side, which made sense; unfortunately, some of the younger players seemed a bit overcome by the moment.
Keeper Ander Cantero was nervous in his first start, and right from the opening whistle he didn’t seem to always be on the same page as the defenders around him. He’ll feel he could have kept out the Ponfe free kick goal, for sure. The goal was set up by a Ramiro Guerra foul just outside our box, too, and he also struggled in the first half, and was subbed out early in the second.
The first half was poor from Villarreal’s point of view. A team with Roberto Soriano, Denis Cheryshev and Samu Castillejo in it ought to be able to impose its will on a Segunda B side, and it didn’t happen. Yes, each of them had some nice moments of individual skill to win the ball from an opponent, say, but there was no real sense of purpose in attack.
A good deal of this disjointed first half I would put at the feet of Enes Ünal. He has individual skill, yes, but he has not figured out how to create space for himself and make himself a target in the box. And Roberto Soriano was MIA as well.
The second half showed more energy from Villarreal, but with Ponfe content to sit behind the ball and defend their lead, for all the possession the Submarine had, chances were not that abundant. Many corners were conceded to us, but we did nothing with them (another all-to-familiar shortcoming, year after year).
Pablo Fornals coming in for Castillejo around the hour mark helped some, but we really needed a stronger presence in the box. Cheryshev and Leo Suarez (who was pretty good overall) tried to do too much at times, and Rukavina and Adrian Marin ( a nice return to action for him) tried to put crosses in, but they were just bundled away.
Ponferradina have had success at home against Primera sides before, in fact in 2015 they defeated Eibar 3-0 at this stage but lost the return leg 4-0 at Iparua. So things could be different at the Ceramica—certainly our lineup should be.
Nonetheless, we continue being terrible at this competition. Since 2008, we have won the first leg at this stage of the competition exactly twice: against Cadiz in 2014, and Toledo in 2016. Since we are almost always being drawn against Segunda B sides due to our reaching Europe the season before, that is an astoundingly bad record!
If it’s any consolation, our opponents this weekend, Atletico Madrid, could only draw 1-1 at Elche today, with Luciano Vietto being given an opportunity to shine and proving unable to take it.