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Pucela fall to defeat at Villarreal




Santi Cazorla (P) 77’, Javier Ontiveros 89’


Real Valladolid slumped to defeat on the road at Villarreal in a match where they managed to silence the league’s top-scorer Gerard Moreno, but Santi Cazorla called the shots for the home side. Despite holding out for three-quarters of the match, Pucela finally began to unravel when Mohammed Salisu conceded a penalty by fouling ex-Real Valladolid player Javier Ontiveros in the box. Cazorla dispatched the resulting spot kick and Ontiveros rounded off the contest by netting twelve minutes later. Sergio González’s side have not won since the opening day victory over Real Betis and suffered their second defeat in five matches.

Villarreal manager Javier Calleja opted to play a 4-2-3-1 formation, pulling Gerard back into the supporting three behind lone striker Carlos Bacca. It was an interesting decision to make, given that Gerard had netted in all the previous games playing as the main forward or in partnership with Bacca in a front pairing. Sergio Asenjo retained his place between the posts for his second appearance of the season. The former blanquivioleta goalkeeper had become a cult figure during his time at the José Zorrilla stadium, rising through the youth and B-team ranks to become a major figure in the Real Valladolid first team. Cazorla, who featured in last week’s win over Leganés on the right flank, moved back inside to become the lynch pin of the midfield.

Real Valladolid lined up in a familiar 4-4-2 formation but had several personnel adjustments to make. Fede Barba replaced Nacho at left-back and Antoñito moved into right midfield after spending the last three matches on the bench. Rubén Alcaraz returned to the starting eleven for the first time since the Real Betis match and Fede San Emeterio dropped to the bench to accommodate him. Also beginning the match as substitute was Waldo, who had started last week against Osasuna. Due to Enes Ünal being on loan from Villarreal, the Turkish striker was not included in the match day squad. His place was filled by Sandro who – like Alcaraz – was also making his first start since Round 1.

Villarreal led the match in most of the statistical categories and were the dominant side for the vast majority of the encounter, but it was the away team who fashioned the best opportunity of the opening exchanges. Óscar Plano tested Asenjo from inside the box and the rebound spun high in the air toward the goal, only to be cleared by Rubén Peña on the line with Raúl Albiol rushing back to assist.

From then on, Cazorla established himself as the focal point of Villarreal’s play and he began to impose his authority on proceedings. His delivery into the box from the left flank was met low by goalkeeper Jordi Masip who pushed it into the path of team-mate Rubén Alcaraz. However, the midfielder delayed on the ball and his indecision almost cost his team dearly as he was muscled out of possession in the box by Gerard. After stealing the ball, the forward found the net but almost immediately the referee penalised him for being over-exuberant in his challenge on Alcaraz.

Despite Calleja’s side displaying their dominance in possession, Real Valladolid would be justified in feeling that they could have gone into the dressing room at half-time with a lead. As it stood, the match was goalless at the interval.

In the second half, Real Valladolid were unfortunate to not break the deadlock. Sandro, who is without a goal to his name since 2017, almost ended his drought as his shot deflected off Pau Torres and left Asenjo static, but the ball looped and spun onto the base of the post before the danger was cleared. However, this was the closest that Pucela came to scoring and they were required to shift the focus to more defensive duties for much of the second period as Cazorla and Villarreal grew into the game.

Karl Toko Ekambi replaced Bacca shortly before the hour mark and he made a positive impact five minutes later as Gerard played him through on goal with an incisive pass but Masip was equal to his low angled shot from inside the box and parried the effort away.

The breakthrough came with less than fifteen minutes to play. Second-half substitute Javier Ontiveros, who had replaced Vicente Iborra, burst into the opposition box and was tripped by central defender Mohammed Salisu. The forward, who had spent the latter part of the 2017/18 season on loan at the José Zorrilla, hit the ground and a penalty was immediately awarded. The duty fell to the home captain, Cazorla, to take the kick and he tucked it coolly inside the left post, evading the grasp of the out-stretched Masip who had guessed the right way but was unable to repel the effort. On the balance of play, it was a deserved reward for Villarreal’s industry.

The Submarino Amarillo came close to doubling their advantage in spectacular fashion less than ten minutes later. Cazorla’s cross from the right was intended for Samuel Chukuweze on the edge of the area but was intercepted by the head of Waldo. The midfielder’s glancing contact cleared it from the box, but only as far as Villarreal right-back Peña who struck a wicked first time volley which rattled against Masip’s post with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.

Masip’s goal was living a charmed life therefore it was unsurprising when Villarreal finally killed off the match. Ontiveros continued to impress and was rewarded with a goal in the 89th minute. Chukuweze was the provider this time, sending a ball to the back post for Ontiveros who had lost his marker, Pedro Porro, and the summer signing from Málaga guided his header past Masip to put the match out of reach for the visitors.

There are now legitimate concerns about the level of play from Real Valladolid. It can be argued that they have not had a positive result since the second match of the season where they drew 1-1 away at Real Madrid. Since then, they have managed just one goal in their three subsequent matches which echoes the struggles of last season where they found the net only 32 times in 38 league contests. There is a reliance on the defence to be compact and resolute, but there seems to be no back-up plan when goals are lost and the team continues to offer very little in the way of sharp finishing when opportunities are created. Defensively, five goals have been conceded in the same time span, so it is also becoming apparent that the quality in that area of the pitch is also deficient.

Tuesday night’s match against Granada looked very winnable at the start of the season, but the Andalucíans have taken the league by storm. The newly-promoted side have won their last three in a row – including Saturday night’s incredible 2-0 home win over Barcelona – to hoist them to the top of the standings temporarily. It is perhaps too early to start talking about important wins but a loss here, combined with results elsewhere, could see Pucela in the relegation zone by the time they travel to take on Espanyol on Sunday.

REAL VALLADOLID: Jordi Masip; Pedro Porro, Mohammed Salisu, Kiko Olivas, Fede Barba, Antoñito; Míchel (Pablo Hervías 80’), Rubén Alcaraz, Óscar Plano (Anuar 74’); Sergi Guardiola, Sandro (Waldo 66’).

Substitutes unused: Andriy Lunin; Javi Moyano, Joaquín, Fede San Emeterio.

VILLARREAL: Sergio Asenjo; Xavi Quintillà, Pau Torres, Raúl Albiol, Rubén Peña; Andre Anguissa, Vicent Iborra (Javier Ontiveros 74’), Gerard Moreno, Santi Cazorla, Moi Gómez (Samuel Chukuweze 66’); Carlos Bacca (Karl Ekambi 58’).

Substitutes unused: Andrés Fernández; Mario Gaspar, Ramiro Funes Mori; Manuel Trigueros.


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