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Villarreal 1-2 Alavés: Champions League dream takes a big hit

Villarreal v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

This was supposed to be a match where Villarreal could take a big stride toward fourth place with a win. However, what it really did was show how much remains to be done in order to compete at Champions League level.

A constant problem for Villarreal—regardless of season, regardless of coach, regardless of opponent—has been our inability to play well against teams we should easily defeat, especially if, as Alavés was today, they are well organized and pretty much park the bus, waiting for rare opportunities from breaks or set pieces.

That Alaves did so should have been no surprise. In fact, this match was rather like our 2-1 loss in the Basque Country last April; Alaves went 2-0 up and though the last half-hour was all Villarreal, it ended 2-1 (with the same scorers for Alavés, incidentally). Same scoreline today; Villarreal outshot the visitors 27 to 5, but only 6 of the Submarine attempts were on net, 4 of Alavés’s 5 were.

Defensive solidity under Calleja continues to be a problem. Alavés first goal was a bit fluky (and Asenjo could have done better) but their second was a fine finish from a counterattack where no one was in position to defend.

Another problem is our over-reliance on Rodri (suspended today, and leaving in the summer), Fornals--who had an off-game today by all accounts—and Cedric Bakambu, who the Chinese waved a bunch of money in front of so is now gone. It makes sense to wait until summer to replace him permanently, but Roger Martinez was poor today in his starting debut. Now is the time for someone like Nicola Sansone (when he returns from injury) or Roberto Soriano to carry this team—along with Carlos Bacca—if we are to have any chance of fourth place at all.

Highlights (well, the goals) are here.