Villarreal played their last match in a windy day, with the objective of earning mathematically the rights to advance to the next round of the league. For the ones not sure how this is working: Villarreal is part of the Grupo Sur, in this case playing their matches in the subgroup Sur B. The top four of the two groups (Sur A and Sur B) will be regroup together in a new group and they will play a round-robin to determine the total winner, carrying their points from their initial group. Winning this group will award promotion to the top flight. Right now, Villarreal could be seen as the favorite to win all, with Pozoalbense and Unión de Tenerife coming close. Notably, Unión de Tenerife is the only team to beat Villarreal.
Now to the match. This marked the return to the team for Sheila, who missed the match against Femarguín, with also Sara Martínez and Sara Medina returning to the starting line-up. The shape was the usual, a 4-3-3 with a high press that can also be played as a 4-4-2 in diamond in a more conservative approach. Having Sheila on the field changes a lot how this is played, as she can have more mobility compared to other choices for the attacking midfielder, and I’m sure Sara Monforte is happy to have her.
The match started with some troubles trying to open some passing game from inside, so for the initial 15 minutes, the main source of attack was Lara Mata going for the long pass, most of the time to Salma. This can be seen as Lara Mata did a total of 9 passes during that period, with an accuracy of 56% due to all the long balls, one good example is her long ball finding Sara Martínez inside the area. Sara controls and turns past a tackle to fire a shot into the net that Alhama clears when the bench was ready to sing the goal. Giménez was also one of the top passers of the first 15 minutes with 11 passes, but most of them were in her own third with the keeper and Lara. As the match went on, she started to have more forward passes.
But as the match went on, they started to find more success advancing the ball, and with Sheila appearing and the good work of Bea Prades (I see her as a Busquets for the team) they started to gain the high ground against Alhama. Sara Martínez had a great match being a constant threat, with Salma having some more problem to appear more, but even with that, doing some great work recovering balls and shielding them when having them. One example of the threat of Sara Martínez is how it came the corner that led to the goal. Goalkick from De Toro looking for Coronel, she didn’t manage to win the header but goes to Sara Martínez who tries to get it and gives a header to Sheila, Sheila gets the loose header and passes it to Sara Martínez who runs for it only for a defender to arrive and clear it to corner. Sara Medina put the corner in play with a perfect cross that found the head of Coronel for the one nil.
The goal relaxed more Villarreal that started to dominate and find the spaces in the inside, and whle they went to the halftime with one goal of advantage, the dominance was there. Still, at the passes they needed some improvement, with a 73% accuracy with them, also thanks to the good pressing that Alhama was doing. From this half, besides Lara Mata, I’d also highlight Sara Medina, that with the recovering work he did during the early minutes, she started to get more involved in the passing game.
The second half was of more dominance of Villarreal, who was trying to surpass the pressing of Alhama, and did it quite well for the goal of Sheila. After a recovery done by Salma, she receives a foul but the ref allows the play to continue and Sara Martínez starts a 15 passes sequence between Salma, Martínez, Coronel and Albeta that ended up with a pass of Salma to Coronel who crossed it to find the head of Sheila. Two nil with the keeper not needing to step up. The third goal came from a positional attack, Giménez makes a forward pass to find Sara Medina, one-touch pass to Bea Prades who does the same with Salma, and Salma closes the sequence with a one-touch to Sara Medina who decides to why not, shoot from the distance and in it goes. Good choice considering how the wind was going at that moment. Alhama was trying to find answers to the match. With the clock tickling down, Alhama got to adjust the scoreboard to a 3-1 thanks to a good volley in a corner. To note, this is the first goal conceded by Villarreal playing at home.
The match had a lot of moments, and the subs did actually seems to change the dynamic. Cristina Díaz (sub at 65 for Sara Martinez) spent almost ten minutes trying to figure where she was. Laura Royo (sub at 71 for Sheila) was easier to have some impact bringing danger to Alhama. The last subs done, in pair: Soto (sub at 81 for Sara Medina) and Miguélez (sub at 81 for Bea Prades) changed the dynamic a lot. Giménez advanced her position to play the DM so Miguélez could be the CB, while Soto spent some time changing her position with Laura Royo, ending with Soto playing as the forward to Laura Royo AM.
In total, Villarreal did during the match 335 passes for an accuracy of 74%. Giménez was the top passer at 74 (91% accuracy) but a lot of her passes were in the back with the keeper. She also had some more forward passes during the second half than during the first one. If I had to pick a WOTM for this one, I think I would go with Sara Medina. Great job at the recovery, helped the team moving the ball forward and scored a great goal. And what about the Spanish sensation, Salma? She had a bit of problem trying to enter the match but as the match went on, she started to appear more and more, and did some great recoveries for the team and getting more involved in the passing game.
Villarreal continues one week more at the time, with next match being the derby against Joventut Almassora this Saturday. For the moment, seems it won’t be broadcasted.