A serious and laser-focused Villarreal took home a victory out of a difficult stadium, both historically for the Yellow Submarine, and also taking into account the home team’s current circumstances, yesterday at Valladolid.
Sergio’s men needed to at least retain a point to keep in the better side of a relegation battle that gets tighter by the week, but Villarreal’s serenity to navigate the match’s difficult moments, and his ability to capitalize when the tide turned in its favor prevented that.
Villarreal fielded its usual starting eleven, bar Moi Gomez coming in for Chukwueze, injured, and Peña on the right for Foyth, with the same luck.
A good start and a scare
Villarreal managed the first 30 minutes pretty efficiently, keeping the ball and attempting to thread together a play that would break Valladolid’s defense, without Kiko Olivas from the start (who came from Villarreal’s youth system), but still with a solid network of defenders and defensive midfielders ready to destroy.
So much so, that local team’s Yamiq, with a dangerous, shin-high, flat-footed tackle on Moreno, saw a yellow card that will make him miss the next vital match away to Real Sociedad this weekend. The tackle was absolutely terrifying to watch to any Villarreal fans, as a Moreno injury for two weeks could have meant the star of the team would have missed the Europa League final.
Villarreal’s light went out for the rest of the first half after that tackle, and Valladolid actually had a few chances through Weissman, good on the movements the entire match, but unable to make a chance stick. The striker born in Israel has scored six goals this season, and at this point is playing because Sergio doesn’t really have any other pure strikers.
A second half to show intent, and a record broken
Villarreal came out in the second half ready to ask hard questions of Valladolid’s back-four, and after Emery took off Alcacer to bring Yeremy Pino, as the striker just seemed off yesterday (he often does), the 18 year old helped jolt his team back into focus.
Villarreal seemed more vertical, chances starting to come, and 20 minutes into the first half, Pau Torres, through a long pass over the local defense, enabled Moreno, who while getting grabbed, shoved and pressured, still managed his signature move to receive with his back to goal, pivot from the outside in, and shoot, low and hard. Roberto couldn’t do much, and with that goal, Villarreal was again in the fight for the Top 6.
The goal also meant that Gerard Moreno is now the top scorer for Villarreal in La Liga–ever. 55 goals means he is one over Giuseppe Rossi and Diego Forlan, both with 54. Good company for the Catalan striker.
Capoue to finish things up
One would think that Moreno’s goal would have pushed Valladolid to go for it and try to get a point back, but Sergio’s men showed why they have won one match in the last 19, and presented no alternatives to put up a fight. Asenjo only made two saves in the entire match.
What’s more, towards the end of the 90 minutes, and with time running out, Manu Trigueros assisted for the 7th time this season, and Capoue, with a calm and low show to the near post, beat Roberto again to certify the win, and score his first goal for the club.
Great news for a player who has been vital since Coquelin’s injury, and who actually will not be able to play against Sevilla this weekend, as two minutes before his goal, got his fifth yellow card. Emery is hoping Coquelin will recover in time.
What this means for the Top 6 fight
The week was a good one for Villarreal’s intentions to finish Top 6 and secure a Europa League spot (7th place gets Conference League). The club is still seventh with 55 points, but Betis, tied with the Yellow Submarine (but with better head-to-head), and Real Sociedad, a point ahead and in fifth position, await.
For Valladolid, the Pucelanos sit in relegation spots, and two points away from survival. The last two matches are dire: Real Sociedad away, and Atletico Madrid, at home.
Luckily, the next two matches, even though they are high-caliber, will also be, in theory, not dig-in, get-your-claws-out relegation contenders–Sevilla at home, and Real Madrid away. Hopefully that means no out-of-order tackles, and no injuries for the final in Poland.
Villarreal should be able to play his brand of soccer, try to get a win out of a Sevilla that doesn’t play to win the title anymore (but wants to finish third for Spanish Supercup reasons), and see if there is a chance to steal a point at the Bernabeu.
Lo bueno: Moreno is the top scorer for the club in La Liga, and is three goals away from breaking the record as well in all competitions. Here’s hoping that happens with a Europa League final hat-trick!
Lo malo: I like Peña, but he made some clear mistakes and gave the ball to the opposition in his own half. Can’t happen in Gdansk if he plays.