Villarreal CF fell to Deportivo Alavés at the Estadio de la Cerámica (1-2) in a match that saw them come against a solid Alavés defence, an on-form Pacheco and not take advantage of their clear chances on goal in the final minutes to have at least come away with a point. Rodrigo Ely and Ibai Gómez scored for the visitors, while Carlos Bacca pulled one back for the Yellows. Villarreal also had two penalty appeals turned down.
Javi Calleja started the game with eight Spanish players and his Colombian strike partnership up top. Colombian Roger Martínez was given his first start which saw him set up alongside Carlos Bacca at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.
The match was a hard-fought one from the off, with Villarreal trying to knock the ball around an intense, high-pressing Alavés. The Yellows had the first clear chance of the game in the 7th minute, Mario Gaspar directed a great ball into the box with his head but Bacca’s headed effort went over the bar.
Just over ten minutes later the first controversial play of the match took place. Carlos Bacca fell in the penalty area after Rodrigo Ely made contact with the number 9, but the referee waved away penalty appeals from the Colombian and Villarreal fans.
Alavés took the lead with their first clear chance on goal. Munir’s corner kick was cleared by Trigueros but Alfonso Pedraza headed the ball back into the danger area and Rodrigo Ely flicked it on with his head from close range and it snuck inside Sergio Asenjo’s left post (0-1).
The goal boosted Alavés’ morale and they opted to sit back and try to strike again on the couterattak. Which they did. In the second half, Guidetti played a square ball to Ibai Gómez on the edge of the box and the number 11 controlled and placed the ball past Asenjo into the bottom corner of the Villarreal goal (0-2). A harsh punishment.
Despite the hard blow, the Yellows never gave up. They never do. Calleja’s men managed to pull one back soon after through Carlos Bacca. The Yellow number 9, a cool predator in the box, controlled the ball with his chest and smashed it into the back of the net (1-2). There was hope.
From then on, it was a complete Villarreal onslaught until the final whistle blew. After coming on as the first substitution for the Yellows, Enes Ünal has a couple of great chances. The first was a powerful strike from the edge of the area that forced Pacheco to make a save at his near post, and the second was a difficult header that he managed to direct towards goal but the ball was met with the ring of the crossbar (m. 82).
Then Samu Castillejo’s fantastic strike was met by another feline-like save from the Alavés keeper. Seconds later Álvaro González had the best chance to equalise for the Yellows. He was gifted a free header in front of goal but did not make enough contact with the ball and his glancing effort flew wide of the post. The entire Estadio de la Cerámica let out an ‘ooooh’. Unbelievably close.
With three minutes to go until the final whistle there was another controversial play. Mario Gaspar had a shot that was clearly blocked by Rodrgio Ely’s arm in the box. The referee did not interpret the block as voluntary by the defender.
Villarreal’s next match is this coming Thursday against Olympique de Lyon in the first leg of the Round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League at the Groupama Stadium (9:05pm CET).
Villarreal CF: Asenjo; Mario, Álvaro, Víctor Ruiz, Jaume Costa; Samu Castillejo, Javi Fuego (Raba, m. 78), Trigueros, Fornals (Cheryshev, m. 66); Roger Martínez (Enes Ünal, m. 57) and Bacca.
Deportivo Alavés: Pacheco; Alexis, Rodrigo Ely, Laguardia, R. Duarte; Hernán Pérez (Ibai Gómez, m. 68), Dani Torres, Pina, Alfonso Pedraza; Munir (Maripán, m. 76) and Guidetti (Sobrino, m. 73).
Goals: 0-1. Min. 29: Rodrigo Ely. 0-2. Min. 71: Ibai Gómez. 1-2. Min. 76: Bacca.
Referee: Trujillo Suárez. Cautioned: Bacca, Samu Castillejo, Jaume Costa and Raba for Villarreal; Laguardia, Rubén Duarte, Guidetti and Pacheco for Alavés.
Match information: Match corresponding to Matchday 23 of the LaLiga Santander played at the Estadio de la Cerámica in front of 14,894 spectators. A minute of silence was held in memory of the young UD Alzira footballer, Nacho Barberá, who passed away last week.