Villarreal and Levante played a friendly today in Alcoi (Alcoy) at Alcoyano’s ground El Collao. I honestly am not sure why that spot was chosen, but I’m glad it was. You can have your invented “Champions Cups” and multimillion-euro appearance fees for a supposed “El Classico” halfway around the world. This match is what a friendly should be—played somewhere that doesn’t usually see Primera football, but not too far from home. A treat for the locals...and the whitewashed concrete, old scoreboard at one end, and floodlight pylons sitting in the middle of the corner seat areas just added to the ambience. As did the hills visible directly behind a couple of the grandstands. The folks in attendance enjoying the Alicante sun enjoyed themselves, that’s for sure.
As for the match itself, Villarreal began in a 4-4-2 with Sansone and Soldado as the two strikers. Leo Suarez was very good early on, Villarreal created three good chances in the first fifteen minutes. After that, Levante came into the game more and they scored courtesy of a free-kick that probably was a harsh decision to begin with, but Bardhi’s FK defeated Andrés Fernandez, though he got both hands to it. Bardhi might have added a second before halftime when he eluded Soldado (!) in the box and bore in on goal, but he shanked his shot wide.
Most impressive player of first half was probably Rodri, who was calm in the doble pivote; Fornals was decent as his partner, but you could see the two of them were still working out an understanding of who would be where when, if that convoluted English statement makes sense!
Disappointing: Roberto Soriano, who was anonymous; Sansone, who can’t buy a goal even though he and Soldado had a few nice interchanges.
Second half: Villarreal scored three times in ten minutes (73-82) to win the match. Worth noting we went to a 4-1-4-1, or else 4-3-3, hard to tell at times, and Fornals looked much more comfortable.
First goal: we win the ball in midfield, quick pass to Fornals, his low shot is saved by the sprawling keeper, but Trigueros is there to follow up.
(Fornals came off right after this; we went to a 4-4-2)
Second goal: We have an indirect free kick well outside the box, Trigueros lofts a ball to Semedo at the nearer post who redirects the ball past the keeper courtesy of the Levante defender at the far post (who was credited with an own goal)
Third goal: pass forward to Mario Gonzalez from midfield; he runs forward and slots confidently home past the Levante netminder.
Best players in this half: Castillejo, Semedo, Trigueros.
Disappointing: no one really, and Barbosa had a nice reflex save the one time he had anything to do.
Note none of these goals came from periods of sustained pressure.
Overall, it doesn’t matter very much, but I am glad to see us win just for improving the confidence level.
Next up, we travel to Argentina for the first time ever—this will be a big deal, a friendly vs. Boca. Even if we might not treat it that much more seriously than we did this match (i.e. expect some B teamers to get playing time, and we already know Unal and Marin aren’t making the trip—nor are Bruno, Chery and Asenjo). Endavant!