Villarreal kicked off their first Champions League campaign in 10 years with a draw on Tuesday night.
Atalanta proved difficult opposition for the Yellow Submarine at Estadio de la Ceramica, though but for a disastrous opening 20 minutes, Villarreal dominated proceedings and took the lead after Manu Trigueros and Arnaut Danjuma scored to overcome Remo Freuler’s opener.
But it would end in disappointment for the Yellow Submarine when Robin Gosens took advantage of some lax defending to ensure a point for the Italians to take back to Lombardy.
Nevertheless, it’s a first point for a Villarreal and a potentially valuable one given Manchester United’s slip-up elsewhere, and here we run through three things we learned from the game.
The first 20 minutes saw Villarreal put themselves in trouble time and again with ill-judged attempts to play out from the back while trying to get to grips with Atalanta’s shape.
Defensively, the Yellows were poor on Tuesday night, with errors aplenty from Pau Torres - who was perhaps thrust in too early here - while Raul Albiol’s uncharacteristic error led to the equaliser late on.
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta— Jamie Kemble (@JamieKemble) September 14, 2021
Quick post-match take from the car pic.twitter.com/FeLPzYONfX
The experienced centre-back just needed to knock the ball out of play amid intense pressure down in the corner, but he tried to clear it, saw the ball blocked and Atalanta seized possession in the final third.
Both goals were very much preventable and Villarreal must improve defensively if they are going to stand a chance in this competition.
Trigueros silences the doubters
Manu Trigueros has been doubted by many so far this season, looking a little laboured early in the campaign.
Though, in his defence, Emery had changed the shape to a two-man midfield where he wasn’t given the licence to do what he does best.
Given the out-and-out protection of Etienne Capoue and the reintroduction of Dani Parejo in the midfield, Triguero shone here and even got on the scoresheet.
He has waited the best part of 10 years to represent Villarreal in the Champions League group stage, and he stood up to the occasion here.
Trigueros took his goal nicely and was the key player in setting a number of attacks in motion. He still has a big role to play in this team this season.
The Dia misfit
Boulaye Dia has looked sharp in the early stages of the season, even if he hasn’t managed to score, but despite a few bright moments, he looked unsure of his role in this 4-3-3.
It took Villarreal more than 20 minutes to figure out how to hurt Atalanta by splitting the back three with incisive runs.
But even then, Dia often found himself a little too central, and his unpredictable runs often saw the through balls from midfield go astray.
He did manage some success when pealing wide and coming inside, but it’s clear to see there is some work to do if he is going to fit into a 4-3-3 with Gerard Moreno.
Though, it’s worth adding that this was against a back three, something we don’t see an awful lot of in La Liga, so he may well have better success against other bacl-lines.
This game was set up for Gerard and two out-and-out wingers, as Arnaut Danjuma proved when he came on and scored the second.