Usually, when a team is close to a historic match for the club, the idea in the weeks leading up to it is to play things safe, to give bench players more minutes to prove themselves, and unless the need is there in the other competitions, save, as much possible, the starting eleven for that crucial event.
Yesterday, at La Ceramica, and due to the need Villarreal had to keep the three points in Vila-real to opt to the Europa League next season, especially if the final does not go their way, Emery did feature some starting players. Pau and Albiol in the center of the defense, Parejo as the creator paired with Trigueros, and Gerard Moreno, who wanted to increase his goal tally in La Liga, all started.
Emery did have to get creative in some instances, however. Funes Mori, a left centerback, had to play as a rightback; Moi Gomez was placed in midfield, where Capoue or Coquelin would usually play, and Bacca and Yeremy Pino starting from the beginning to add to an attack led by Moreno.
Opposite to Villarreal was Sevilla, who tried to go after the game from the first minute, and push Barcelona in the third position, but who could not capitalize on the talent on the grass to take anything home.
Even though the first twenty minutes of the match had Lopetegui’s men own the clear chances, an inspired Sergio Asenjo took care of business and made multiple acrobatic saves as De Jong, Ocampos and company watched the goalkeeper’s show. Sevilla took a small break to come up for air, and Villarreal took advantage of the situation with a well-placed header by Carlos Bacca, after a corner taken by Parejo. Sevilla looked confused, and Bacca celebrated with the crowd. The Colombian’s celebration seemed meaningful, sending a message to the crowd, and pointing his fingers to the sky.
Just like that, the first half came and went, and the second one started the best way possible for Villarreal. Gerard Moreno acted as a playmaker this time around, and with a millimetric pass to Bacca into space, enabled the striker to score with a classic “9” finish around the goalkeeper.
Right after the two first goals, and with Sevilla out of place and wondering how they got there, Diego Carlos saw two yellow cards, and left Sevilla scrambling to regroup. Lopetegui’s men officially took themselves out of the match.
With the team liking itself and enjoying the crowd, the two goals that followed both occurred in taking advantage of blatant mistakes by the Sevilla defense. Villarreal showed efficiency that will be very much needed against Manchester United if the trophy is to come to Vila-real.
The last goal of the match confirmed Bacca’s hat-trick, and gave the Colombian an opportunity to give the club and the fans at the stadium a parting gift to his home of the past four years. Carlos Bacca performed a master class on what a striker does for a living.
Overall, and even with Sevilla’s red card and an ample advantage, the Yellow Submarine continued to opt for a counter-attack style of play that produced the desired outcomes. After the match finished, the score showed a 4-0 win that shows Villarreal perhaps did not earn the kind of victory that was announced, and confirms that a few players are in amazing form at the moment–today especially, Sergio Asenjo, and Gerard Moreno.
The former keeps putting Emery in a bit of a pickle by having to pick Rulli for the Europa League final, when Sergio is performing amazing in Liga; the latter, with another goal that keeps him plugged in–three goals in the past three La Liga matches, and 23 goals in 32 matches this season in the competition. Gerard Moreno is officially, and has been for a while now, a world-class striker who can very well match up to Cavani and his Manchester United.
However, yesterday belonged to someone else. Special mention to Carlos Bacca, an example of someone who has amazing talent, but also knows how to be a leader in the locker, and out on the pitch when given the opportunity. Today, he scored three goals, all different, and showed he still has it. What’s more, he showed he can be a very good super-sub in a match as important as the one in Poland in two weeks.
A final is a matter of taking advantage of specific moments, and Bacca could very well do that if given a chance and if the match requires it.
The 34 year old is looking at options for the summer, one of them being Boca Juniors in Argentina, but that does not mean he lacks concentration when he is needed. He ended a crucial match with a hat-trick, and one goal away from double digits this season.
Bacca spoke after the match and admitted he was “Happy. In this difficult moment for me, this gives me happiness, to me and my family. I’ve been through two hard weeks–I lost a family member, my dad tested positive two weeks ago, my sister, too. I kept it inside, I don’t think anyone in the team knew this.”
The last great news for the local team comes in the shape of 5,000 fans of Villarreal, but this time not cardboard cut-outs that have “lived” at La Ceramica for over a year, but fans in the flesh, who came to the stadium for the first time since early 2020.
The fans were welcomed back into La Ceramica for the first time in over 400 days, and the team definitely felt its support and warmth through most of the match. There were some moments where the vibe was a bit sterile, but that also has to do with thousands of fans who still need to get into the flow of things–just like a team does in pre-season.
We’ll all get there. For now, three golden points, and now, the aim is to put pressure on Real Sociedad and Betis in the last game of the season against a certain Real Madrid, and next, to look at Poland in a match that will happen 72 hours afterwards–since La Liga declined the club’s request to play on Saturday. As Fernando Roig Negueroles admitted, La Liga told him the change in day would not be happening to not conflict with the Eurovision song contest.
You read right.
The best: The team showed it has players in form beyond the starting eleven, and that could be crucial in the final. Bacca punched his ticket as a supersub for Poland.The worst: The first 20 minutes were not good defensively, and so many chances against Cavani or Fernandes will not end well.
The worst: The first 20 minutes were not good defensively, and so many chances against Cavani or Fernandes will not end well.