El Centrocampista

Resurrection Man – Lotina drags Villarreal back to life


The Yellow Submarine celebrated only its second away win of the season last Sunday with a 2-0 triumph at Rayo Vallecano. It wasn’t all beautiful, flowing football — in fact, very little of it was—but this season, three points are great however they come for Villarreal.

Coach Miguel Angel Lotina said it best after the match: in the first half, Villarreal played the way it wanted. On the narrow, bumpy pitch, Villarreal aimed to counterattack, with lots of forward pressure from Cani, Borja, Nilmar and Ruben on the ball when Rayo had it in its own half.

Alhough Villarreal didn’t exert continued offensive pressure, they did steadily create chances. Marco Ruben blasted over from a tough angle in the ninth minute after a Rayo defender gave up the ball to a Cani challenge; later, Nilmar had chances to put the Submarine in front. On the half-hour mark Borja and Cani combined to steal the ball from an advancing Rayo player, Cani’s shot beat goalkeeper Joel but hit the crossbar, and Marco Ruben followed up to slot home. Joel denied Nilmar on a one-on-one to keep the score 1-0 at halftime,

But, as Lotina admitted, in the second half it was the home side who dictated the style of play. Rayo went to three at the back and added width to their attack with Lass Bangoura and Raul Tamudo replacing Casado and Piti. Lass ran Joan Oriol ragged down our left wing, but the Villarreal defense dealt with his crosses rather comfortably. Ten minutes in Villarreal should have put the game away when Ruben was bundled over by Arribas in the penalty area after another Rayo turnover, but although the Argentine striker hit a good penalty Joel guessed correctly and saved it.

This save, as well as the introduction of Movilla for Trashorras ten minutes later, seemed to galvanize the hosts. However the only really clear cut chance they had came when Armenteros headed the ball directly at Lopez from close range. And with just five minutes left, Villarreal scored again. Martinuccio gathered the ball on the left flank, beat two defenders, passed to Ruben at the top of the box, who found a wide-open Angel Lopez who slotted home the goal.

It wasn’t over yet, but Lopez really only had to make one difficult save from a Movilla rocket from outside the box, while Martinuccio nearly added a third as time expired. Afterward, Rayo coach Sandoval said he felt his team has deserved more, but on balance Villarreal were the better side. Senna and Bruno were able to control Michu and Trashorras, and Rayo just didn’t have much of a cutting edge on the day.

Other results mostly went Villarreal’s way, too. Zaragoza, Sporting and Racing are all now six points behind, and Granada have now slipped below
Lotina’s side after their loss to Sevilla on Monday.

On the evidence so far, the new coach has brought a confidence to the team that we sorely needed, as well as tactical know-how they were also lacking.
Lotina has settled on a back four with Mario Gaspar on the right wing, Mateo Musacchio and Cristian Zapata in the middle, and Oriol on the left. Against Real Madrid, even, this group seemed in control, as opposed to the wobbly defensive performances we’d come to expect this year.

Gone is the high line (frequently breached by pacy midfielders so often this year) and frequent attempts to play the offside trap; in his place has come a willingness to retreat and defend in numbers when need be.

Latest word is that Nilmar will miss the Espanyol match with another muscle injury (Martinuccio is likely to get his first start in his stead), and Giuseppe Rossi, although getting closer to a return, isn’t ready just yet – he is taking part in regular training now, however.

Two excellent games under Lotina have the fans believing things have indeed changed for the better, and certainly—for the first time all season—the vibes around el Madrigal are good. Another three points this weekend would make them even better.


For more Villarreal CF news and views visit Allen and the team at VillarealUSA.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow us and get La Liga news right in your feed!