Villarreal moved back into the European places with a 2-0 win over Las Palmas at the Gran Canaria stadium, with second half goals from Carlos Bacca and Nicola Sansone (a penalty).
Javi Calleja went with a 4-2-3-1; he chose Daniele Bonera to partner Alvaro in defense, Rodri and Trigueros were the two, Roberto Soriano, Pablo Fornals, and Dani Raba were the three behind Carlos Bacca.
The first half was a largely dreary affair; Dani Raba had an early chance for Villarreal turned away, Sergio Asenjo made a couple of fine saves on Jonathan Calleri, but otherwise, little danger was created from either side. Jaume Costa received a yellow card (could have been at least ‘orange’) for a rough foul on Alen Halilovic, and concluded his day by picking up an injury, Adrián Marín coming on for him after 35 minutes.
HT Las Palmas 0-0 Villarreal
It was perhaps telling that Paco Jemez made two substitutions at halftime, feeling the players already on the pitch weren’t likely to produce anything and going to a 4-3-3 formation from a 4-4-2. However, Villarreal began to impose its will on the game, though confidence in front of goal continued to be a problem. In the 66th minute Carlos Bacca notched his ninth goal of the season to give us the lead (shortly after having a previous attack stopped for offside, which it probably wasn’t).
That goal, and the three minutes of play that followed, showed us the best and the worst of our Colombian international. The goal was set up by a through ball from Fornals and a fine run by Bacca, and he slammed a right-footed shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the net. Good Bacca.
Two minutes later Fornals collected a ball on our side of midfield, ran forward 40 yards but instead of testing the keeper in a one-on-one situation, passed the ball to Bacca, who managed to waste the chance by slowly dragging the ball onto his favored right foot and ruining his angle, when he had two players to help him. And in the 70th minute an even better chance was wasted—again it was Fornals playing Bacca in, this time he chose to shoot from an acute angle when if he had passed the ball across the penalty area he had a wide-open comrade (Soriano, I think) poised for an easy tap-in into an empty net. Bad Bacca.
Las Palmas huffed and puffed, and forced Villarreal into conceding a couple of corners and free kicks, but short of a couple of Calleri headers going wide, Asenjo was hardly tested. Finally, just as injury time began, another through ball, this one from Adrian Marin, found Nicola Sansone in on goal and he was denied in the box by a comprehensive takeout from behind by defender Galvez, who was promptly sent off as last man. Sansone calmly converted the penalty.
FT Las Palmas 0-2 Villarreal
This result might say more about Las Palmas at this point than Villarreal, but it’s also the type of opponent the Submarine has sometimes failed to defeat, so let’s not be too picky. The islanders might well have their season decided for them in their next two away matches, against Depor and Levante. Based on this performance, I would not expect much.
MOTM: Pablo Fornals.
Next up, Atletico Madrid. Endavant!!!