Of course, Villarreal talked the talk (“we’re going to go to the Mestalla and see what happens”, “it’s not over yet’, etc. etc.) but when you saw the team sheet, it was pretty clear we were not going to spend a lot of energy on this one. Karl Toko Ekambi and Santi Cazorla didn’t even make the squad; Vicente Iborra and Carlos Bacca did but never moved from the bench, while Samu Chukwueze came on at halftime because Dani Raba’s effort was so poor.
Any lingering question as to the tie was resolved 13 minutes in when Guedes beat Ratiu and crossed the ball for Lato to volley home. Valencia could have made it two moments later, but Gamiero’s 1-on-1 lob went wide of the net. They did add a second from Dani Parejo with a direct free kick early in the second half for the 2-0 final result.
Villarreal had 20 shots on the evening, but a number of them were blocked by the Valencia defense; keeper Neto wasn’t really troubled much. I guess I would go for Gerard as our best player, but to be honest no one played that well. The pelting rain in the second half did not help matters, either.
About the best I can say for Villarreal were a number of key players were rested, as far as I know no one was injured, and we got to see Trigueros, Jaume Costa and Javi Fuego return to action while Andrei Ratiu made his first-team debut.
For Valencia, no injuries either as far as I know; the only negative was substitute Coquelin picking up a yellow card late on for a handball, which puts him out of the first leg against Arsenal. Unai Emery versus his old club—should be interesting.
One advantage Valencia have is the first leg is away. I have always felt playing the first leg at home and winning 1-0, as we did under Marcelino against Liverpool three years ago, was in many ways the worst result because it encouraged his defensive tendencies. With the first leg in England, Valencia will know what they have to do to progress and Marce can set a team out to do exactly that.
Meanwhile, Villarreal look forward to a big home match on Sunday against Leganés. Win that, and no one will remember this result—or care.