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Espanyol 0-1 Villarreal

We move (at least temporarily) into sixth place.

Villarreal won at Espanyol for the first time since Jbianuary 2011 thanks to a Toko Ekambi goal in the 17th minute, as he poked home a rebound off a Ruben Peña run and shot. Some takeaways:

(1) Villarreal weathered the “Machin effect”. We knew Espanyol would set up differently than they had under David Gallego, and they did— a 3-4-2-1 with Jonathan Calleri at the top, and a high press. The home side dominated the first half, actually; Ekambi’s goal came on literally our first attack of the match.

(2) Pau Torres and Albiol were both outstanding. With David Lopez and Calleri winning the aerial battle, Villarreal concentrated on defending the second ball for the most part. Calleri got on the wrong side of Albiol and hit the top of the bar with a header off a corner in the first half, and Asenjo had to come up with a reflex save off a Granero header in the second—Pau got caught at the top of the box and Granero got between Albiol and Iborra.

(3) Our passing to create attacks was spotty. The possession stats were fairly even but we had some golden opportunities to break in on goal where the pass to free up someone was missed. That happened in the first half—you could hear the crowd gasp as they realized Alberto Moreno would be in on goal if the ball got to him—but it didn’t—and the same happened to Ontiveros in the second half. There were others, too.

(4) Speaking of Ontiveros.... it really does seem as though he and Samu are perfectly placed to be subs around the 65-75 minute mark. Onti especially created all sorts of problems for Espanyol after he came on.

(5) Thank goodness for VAR. If the “penalty” on Pau Torres had stood it would have been a cruel joke. This officiating crew had a terrible match all the way round, from the penalty that wasn’t to the illegal back pass that wasn’t to corners that weren’t given. Just not a good day for them.

(6) Unsung hero? Gerard. Got back and helped on defense on set pieces, held up the ball well, and was unlucky to not have at least an assist today.

And Asenjo, too. Very confident in goal and made the two reflex saves he needed to make. Well done.

Next up, we host Alavés on Friday.