It's no secret that Villarreal has had a disappointing season; but it's tough to really fathom how disappointing they've been. Coming into tonight's matchup with a surging Valencia side, they were 18th in the Liga, comfortably in the relegation zone, after winning a total of three matches (out of 16). They are a very far cry from Manuel Pellegrini's early-2000's side that set the world on fire; hell, they're a far cry from that middle of the table side they were last season.
But during Sunday's match against Valencia, something seemed to awaken in this side: they possessed the ball brilliantly, created chances on goal throughout the match, and generally outplayed los ché. The yellow submarine was resurfacing, lighting the world on fire once again with that slick, speedy brand of football that made them world-famous. OK, fine, I might be exaggerating; but honestly, only a little.
Sure, their two goals came on defensive errors--the first after only 14 minutes, came courtesy of Marco Rubén, who controlled a ball in the area and was barely marked as he stroked it in, the second four minutes later seemed like the same play, though it started from a free kick and Gonzalo Rodríguez tapped it in--but they played their yellow behinds off all match and it showed. Were it not for a late equalizer from Aduriz in the 87th minute (and a bit of utter brilliance from Miguel at the end of the first half), they would have walked away much-deserved winners.
But that story line is for another day, as Villarreal wasn't able to pull themselves out of the relegation zone this week. The draw leaves them at 17th in the Liga, though Sporting, the 18th-place side, has a game in hand. In many ways, though, Villarreal fans can look on this game with a great deal of optimism: for the first time in a long while, their side looked like a real team, putting together a match worthy of some praise. Sure, there are some major issues they need to address--namely, conceding at the end of both halves--but there is a lot to build on here (which is something I definitely wouldn't have been able to say earlier in the season). They're probably a few years away from being a competitive side again, but performances like these do indicate that they're on the correct--albeit arduous--path.
Goals: 1-0, Marco Rubén (14'); 2-0 Gonzalo (18'); 2-1 Feghouli (41'); Aduriz (87')