There were some good things today, but the tale of the scoreboard remained the same. Villarreal dominated the first half at the Ceramica, goals in each half gave them a 2-0 lead, but then what has become the inevitable collapse ensued and two goals in the last 15 minutes gave Espanyol an undeserved 2-2 draw.
As has been suggested by some on here awhile back, Villarreal went to three men at the back. With Santi Cazorla and Vicente Iborra in the middle of midfield, and Pedraza bombing down the left to feed Toko Ekambi, especially, Villarreal looked much better. A Santi free kick that was headed onto the bar fell to Iborra, who poked home from two yards to give us a half time lead.
Espanyol woke up and came out with more purpose in the second half, but Villarreal took a 2-0 lead in the 65th minute when Hermoso pulled down Toko Ekambi in the box. Santi Cazorla showed why he should always be our penalty-taker with a rocket to Diego Lopez’s right that gave Santi’s ex-teammate no chance.
And yet, cue the inevitable collapse. It began ten minutes later with an Espanyol free kick which Sergio Asenjo fumbled, Daniele Bonera (who had had an excellent game to this point) tried a stubbed clearance but only succeeded in scoring an own goal. (Our third of the season—we lead the league in that).
Now Espanyol were back in it and two problems Villarreal has had all season—an inability to defend when the other team puts pressure on us, and just plain bad luck—came back to bite us. Espanyol were in control of play, and equalized through an absolute golazo from Roberto Rosales in the 81st minute that gave a despairing Asenjo no chance.
Highlights (just the goals, really) are here.
The result of this match couldn’t have been worse, both in terms of two more points lost, but also in terms of turning around the negative belief—even when we get ahead, it seems we find more ways to lose that lead. We are too nervous to win right now. A 2-0 lead at home should never be surrendered against a team in the bottom half of the table.
The team looked better today in many ways, but the math now looks worse. As many of us have been saying, if we could just get one win we could build on that, but the reality is we can’t get that first win. We have 19 points from 22 matches; we probably need at least 21, and maybe 24, from our final 16 in order to stay up. Or to put it another way, we’ve won 3 matches out of our first 22. We need to win at least 6, and probably 7, of our final 16. It’s still possible, but not looking very likely.
MoM: Santi Cazorla.