FINALLY!!!!! A home win for the good guys!! It wasn’t easy, and we needed an incredible save from Sergio Asenjo to help us out, but two goals in two minutes early in the second half gave Villarreal a much, much-needed win today.
Villarreal came out in the much-maligned ‘diamond 4-4-2’ that Javi Calleja seems to favor whenever possible, Betis in a 3-5-2. The contrast of formations was interesting; Betis, as expected, attacked down the wings but while Francis was especially dangerous down our left, we were able to clog things up enough in the middle of the park so that no clear danger resulted.
The best chances in the first half fell to Villarreal—two to Pablo Fornals and one to Samu Chukwueze, all of which keeper Pau Lopez was equal to.
The major event of the first half was an injury to Manu Trigueros, who had to come off
HT Villarreal 0-0 Betis
It seemed as if what this match needed was a goal to open it up, and Villarreal duly provided that seven minutes after halftime, with Gerard Moreno rising high to power home a Santi Cazorla corner, giving López no chance. And two minutes later Villarreal doubled its lead with Samu Chukwueze shooting across Lopez and inside the far post following a lovely backheel from Don Santi again.
2-0 was a bit of a flattering scoreline given how much quality Betis was demonstrating on the pitch. Villarreal probably should have had at least one penalty awarded to them in all the madness, as both Santi and Pedraza went down in the box at different times, but Betis had chances too and how Sergio Asenjo kept out a Mendy header with 15 minutes left I have no idea.
Villarreal were, if anything, suffering from youthful exuberance at times; rather than try and waste some time with possessing the ball, too often we barged forward and tried some sort of low-percentage play, lost possession, and were exposed for a Betis counter. Morlanes and Fornals were guilty of this sin and got away with it (thanks to Asenjo), but just before the end of regulation, it was Victor Ruiz who gave the ball away in midfield and Giovanni Lo Celso gave Asenjo no chance from the top of the box.
Injury time passed nervously but Villarreal held out for a tremendously important victory.
FT Villarreal 2-1 Real Betis
The good: Most everybody. Especially the goalscorers, Gerard and Samu; Victor Ruiz, for the first 85 minutes; and Asenjo. And Santy Caseres put in a strong shift, too.
The bad: The injury to Trigueros. Manu Morlanes is talented but it’s early for him to have to come in and try to be a midfield brain the way Manu is when he’s at his best. And of course first-half injury substitutions always hurt since it leaves the coach with fewer options off the bench down the line.
The ugly: The referee’s performance, which was....well, let’s just say he wavered between waving play on and calling little fouls, and there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to any of it. He did call for a VAR once, when Betis appealed for a penalty after a close-range shot hit his body as he fell awkwardly, but fortunately the video ref saw no intent.
And so.... Villarreal’s longest home stretch without a win during any of their Primera seasons is snapped!
Stats: 13 shots apiece, Betis 64-36 possession.
Final thoughts: I picked Betis to do really well this season, and damn, their roster sure has gotten better, but they’ve underachieved just as much as we have so far. It is great to see Sergio Canales healthy and playing well, I must say. I’m still not convinced by Calleja’s subs (taking Mario out for Miguelon was questionable, unless Mario was had picked up a niggle), but it worked out.