El Centrocampista

Red cards, referees and Real Madrid – The Lotina reign gets off to a solid start at Villarreal

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PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP

Villarreal have always been known as a well-managed organisation, not given to hasty moves, so it was a shock when immediately after another loss, this one to Levante 1-0 through a goal in injury time, José Molina was fired after eleven games at the Submarine helm.

His tenure had started well, with three wins and a draw in his first five matches, but perhaps that was largely due to the fact that the players were glad to see Garrido go, more than any Molina magic.

Consecutive losses to Zaragoza, Getafe and Levante, all games where the team shipped late goals to lose points, were perhaps a truer indication that Molina was out of his depth. Villarreal were out coached and outplayed in large part, and tactically the coach seemed to lack ideas or imagination.

Still, they were in line to scrape a dour draw at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium, and over a thousand traveling Villarreal supporters were ready to celebrate, until Carlos Marchena conceded a dangerous free kick in injury time, Molina substituted Camunas for Nilmar in the wall, and Camunas ducked from a Ruben Suarez rocket which was touched in by Torres for the winning goal as the game ended. It was less than Villarreal deserved, but to be honest, without Cani and Borja Valero and no real attacking game plan from Molina, it wasn’t unexpected.

Within hours Miguel Ángel Lotina had been confirmed as the new Villarreal skipper, and given his reputation for dour defending and his lack of success at keeping Depor up last year, the fan base was not happy. (AS’s Javi Mata said from the fan reaction, he wasn’t sure if Sr. Roig had hired Lotina, or one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse).

Lotina had to hit the ground running, of course, with a midweek match against Real Madrid. Although some were hoping for major lineup changes, with the new coach only having the opportunity to take two training sessions, it probably wasn’t too surprising that the lineup was almost the same as against Levante, with Cani returning and Angel playing in place of the still-injured Borja Valero in midfield.

But the look was different, with Villarreal playing basically a diamond in midfield at times, and while Villarreal were content to let Madrid have most of the possession, looking to break quickly and counterattack when they could, they were not passive, fighting hard for every ball.

In the first half Villarreal really should have scored; Cani and Senna both had shots just fly wide of the post, and Nilmar really should have done better when in all alone with Casillas, the Brazilian shooting quickly instead of trying to round the keeper and put the ball away.
The talking point of the half was Arbeloa’s shirt-pulling in the box—first on Marco Ruben, though the Argentinian wasn’t really in a terribly dangerous position, then he tugged Nilmar down when he was attempting to shoot from a cross. How a penalty wasn’t given there was beyond me.

Madrid hardly threatened from open play, but excellent free kicks and corners weren’t rewarded with quality finishes. At half time the game was scoreless, but referee Paredes had already booked five players, and frankly should’ve sent Lass Diarra off within twenty minutes for two bookable offenses. He cautioned Pepe for evidently being in the way of Musacchio’s elbow, and also missed a horrible foul on Callejon by Bruno, so he wasn’t playing favorites.

The league leaders came out with more fire after the break, with Marco Ruben picking up a quick card (at the time many thought it was his second, but it turned out the first yellow was actually Marcos Senna’s) and Madrid beginning to impose itself on the Submarine, pushing them farther and farther back. Ironically, their goal came after a restart following two Villarreal substitutions, so perhaps their lack of concentration at such times cost them again but truth to tell, it was a moment of excellence from Ronaldo and Ozil, with Cristiano receiving a clever return pass from the German, rounding Lopez and tucking the ball away.

At that point, the game became fairly tepid. Martinuccio, DeGuzman and Camunas had all come on by now and were putting the left side of the Madrid defense under some pressure, but nothing was really coming of it. Until, in the 83rd minute, a slide tackle on Joan Oriol was adjudged to have been a foul (I don’t think it was) and Villarreal had a free kick in a dangerous area.

Up stepped Marcos Senna, and he put a free kick past Casillas at his near post—just as Santi Cazorla had done last game. 1-1, but could Villarreal hold on? Within two minutes their task was made easier. The Submarine repelled a Madrid attack and Sergio Ramos, already on a yellow, hacked down Nilmar near the centre of the pitch and was sent off, and the referee, who had already sent Mourinho and one of his assistants to the dressing room for protesting earlier decisions, now sent mild-mannered Mesut Ozil off. A straight red for sarcastically clapping Ramos’s red, I guess.

Had none of this happened, a visibly tiring Villarreal might have been opened up by Madrid; as it was, given their recent problems in conceding
goals late, it’s no surprise that the two-man advantage really wasn’t exploited by Villarreal that much. Madrid were hoping to break up a pass and send Ronaldo and Higuain forward on the counter, and Villarreal were not going to throw too much forward, especially with Borja Valero, their best passer in a controlled possession game, missing.

Martinuccio and Nilmar almost got in with a chance, and a DeGuzman shot was blocked and caromed around the top for the box for a minute, but in
the end Villarreal had to defend one last corner, which they did. Thus the Lotina era begins with an unexpected point.

The real question is how they will play against the teams they can realistically compete against, such as Rayo on Sunday. That will be the real test.

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Follow Allen and the Groguet Crew at VillarrealUSA.com!

 


Villarreal 1-1 Real Madrid – Highlights by goalsarena2012-3




One Comment

  1. de facts man

    24 March, 2012 at 07:51

    da facts r da facts

    experience coach with defense know how matters in liga !
    & finally some good news after 5 crap matches before.

    hopefully lotina works out & villareal survive, caus de vcf managers
    from valverde to garrdo to molina who hardly was keeping da b team up (hired on cheap) was reckless by mgmt

    valerde – was wrong 4 da team
    garroido – statred well, then who knows what happened starting from back in march 2011, when things started to go werid
    molina =had no clue

    owners of club can’t let their team load up only on b players & or sub par buys and go stagnate. if you can’t freshen da team then you should sell it or be relgated

    it is great roig doesn’t owe any taxes, but tat doesn’t do anyone any good if team gets relegated.

    da facts r da facts
    s0s – villarral sunk in cl, copa & near sunk in liga

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