As strange a 5-1 win as you will ever see. Villarreal and Real Betis were even 1-1 after an hour, and fir the first 15 minutes of the second half it was Betis who were the better side. Key talking points:
(1) the introduction of Samu Chukwueze and the move to a 4-4-2. Our 4-2-3-1 really hadn’t created much; our only goal was from a corner and both Gerard and Moi just weren’t involved enough—and in addition Alex Moreno was having a field day down our left. Now suddenly Gerard was more involved.
(2) the VAR review of the play on Samu. Javi Mata on the radio was adamant it was a penalty as soon as it happened; the crew on the beINSport Spanish TV broadcast were like me—they didn’t see the kick from Bartra and were focusing on the contact up top, which didn’t look like a foul. Once they saw the VAR shot, it was clear that it was a penalty, as the standard is being applied these days.
(3) Pedraza, we hardly saw you. In fairness, three of Villarreal’s goals came after he was withdrawn—evidently Rubi figured he needed someone with a turning radius slightly less than that of a large bulldozer to deal with Samu. But he was a bit player in the game and didn’t really give Villarreal fans a chance to react to much.
(4) Santi Cazorla, never stop. Santi scored the penalty; he had an assist on the first goal, and could have had two more assists with sublime passes that weren’t finished off. I mean, really.
(5) Asenjo had some big saves, again. He saved hard shots from Joaquin and Carvalho when the score was 1-1 and Betis was opening our defense up with ease. If one of those goes in, Betis might not have folded so spectacularly in the last 20 minutes.
MOTM: Samu, Santi, Ekambi. And Gerard.