Aitor Arias. That’s the guy Villarreal players will be seeing in their sleep tonight. Arias is a 21 year-old keeper who as far as I can tell is not even Orihuela’s regular starter. I don’t know much about him except he says he is a former player for Valencia (I assume youth teams), Torre Levante, Huracán Valencia, and ADM Lorquí, which I think is an U-19 team connected with Levante.
Arias apparently started Orihuela’s last game (a 2-2 draw against Nastic Tarragona) and made some key saves there, but this was just crazy. He turned aside shot after shot and it took a deflected Gerard shot to beat him. His double save was incredible (on Bacca and Gerard) and he also turned aside a Santi shot at full stretch—those were the three incredible saves for me, but there were others.
Villarreal had 43 shots (!!!) (15 on goal). Arias made 13 saves.
That said, Villarreal had at least two legitimate goals waved off for offside and a clear penalty denied. I’m not fond of conspiracy theories, but some fans are suggesting that Spanish FA head Rubiales has it in for Villarreal because of Sr. Roig’s willingness to play a meague match overseas. I don’t think that entered into it, but the linesman clearly made some key mistakes. That shouldn’t take away from Orihuela’s effort, though.
But, can I say the MAGIC OF THE CUP IS BACK????? I have always been a HUGE fan of cup football, but the Copa del Rey has had so little of it because of the two-legged format. Face it—last year, we would have brought down a side of B-teamers and players needing playing time, Orihuela would have known that even if they had won, odds were Villarreal would knock them over in the return leg.
This time, no. If you were able to see the match, the things you’ll remember (apart from Arias’s saves) were the fans, making lots of noise and cheering on the home team—fans not even in the ground, but watching from balconies of the apartment blocks that are adjacent to one side. You’ll remember a ground with trees in the corner and advertising hoardings all round, the way El Madrigal was once, and fans banging drums and cheering every ball their team won.
Credit to Calleja. His subs were spot on. Trigueros came off at halftime not so much because he had been ineffective as because this was clearly not going to be the type of game he could influence much. As for Samu and Ontiveros, sure, starting them made sense, but neither one grasped their opportunity. Samu, for whatever reason, seemed curiously unwilling to take on players as much as he usually does—he did get a hard hit early in the game and I wonder if it bothered him. He looked to pass the ball far more than usual, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but he just wasn’t his usual self somehow. Ontiveros was very active in the first half but didn’t create much really.
The players who came in—well, Gerard scored both goals, Moi Gomez assisted on both. And Iborra gave Orihuela something new to deal with in the middle.
MOTM: For us, Gerard. Not only did he score the winning goal, but he was the player who looked all along as if he would—as extra time went on the ball seemed to find him more and more. For them, Aitor of course.
Really hard for me to judge after that: Bacca had two legit goals waved off, but otherwise (especially in the first half) did little; Santi had brilliant ideas but his passes weren’t as cleverly weighted as usual and by the end of the match he was exhausted (and having taken almost all of our 20 corners, no wonder).
Funes Mori and Albiol didn’t have much to do, and their goal came from Andrés clumsily spilling a rebound. Mario was meh—he never was good at crossing the ball—and Alberto Moreno made it through the entire match without injury, I guess, had some OK plays but overall slowed the game down a lot in attack, maybe too much.
It would be easy to look at the scoreline and think we didn’t play well, I would say that was true for about the first 20-25 minutes but after that, we could have easily won this 5 or 6-0 if the linesman keeps his flag down when he should have and their keeper was merely, you know, decent. But part of the beauty of futból is matches like this.
Well, we survived, we go into the draw of the round of 32, again it’s one leg and the match is played at the home of the lower division side, or if we draw another Primera team it’s just the luck of the draw.
Keep in mind that the Supercopa sides enter here, keep in mind too that the semifinals are again over two legs, so this might not be the worst time to play Barcelona at the Ceramica. Just saying. (UPDATE: I’m being told this can’t happen, that the four Supercopa sides will be drawn away to Segunda B teams in the next round. Why am I not surprised).