What to say about one of the most critical losses (potentially) since the last match of the 2011-12 season that condemned us to the Segunda? A couple of thoughts....
(1) Villarreal can’t protect leads when it counts. The first 45 minutes we could have been up 3-0 and Celta were rocked. After the break, everything changed—the free kick goal got the crowd back in it and from that point on Villarreal just crumbled.
(2) Calleja’s substitutions didn’t help. Taking off Samu and Morlanes meant that we removed a key passer in the middle and our speed threat up front. Unless Daniele Bonera just wasn’t able to go after all, why he remained on the bench when we could have used his experience to marshal the defense just didn’t make sense. Carlos Bacca did not touch the ball after he replaced Morlanes, by the way, and Fornals hardly did more.
(3) Bye, bye Fornals? He hasn’t fit into our system for awhile now, and now he’s gone and gotten himself a multi-match ban, in all probability, for screaming at the assistant referee. Not exactly the sort of move that endears you to your teammates or front office when you’re in the middle of a relegation scrap.
(4) Celta could not have overcome a loss yesterday; Villarreal can still do so.
If Villarreal had won, the gap back to Celta from 17th would have been five points (Valladolid) and Villarreal would have been 15th, ahead of Levante. That’s the tragedy of the second half. But even with the loss, Villarreal’s road to survival looks similar to a month ago.
My expectation then was more positive about Celta than most, figuring that if Aspas was able to return, they would probably win against Villarreal at home, escape. That still seems true. In the three matches since I wrote that, Celta picked up 3 points; Valladolid 4; Villarreal 6. On the other hand, Rayo have picked up one and Huesca none. And, Levante have picked up only two, and are now only three points ahead of Villarreal, who would win a tiebreak with them.
Villarreal has home matches against Huesca, Leganes, and Eibar, and away matches against Girona, 9-10 points from those 4 have to be the target. But:
(5) We have to pick ourselves up and be confident in ourselves. That has been our toughest task all season—it still is. And our injuries don’t help.
If you can bring yourself to, here’s Sid Lowe’s column on the match. Naturally, the Spanish papers are all about Barcelona and Madrid on their front covers today....