EUROPA LEAGUE | VILLARREAL 4-1 ZURICH
From the lethargy to the party
Villarreal thrashed Zurich after a first half in which they slept and ended it drawing. Cani, Vietto, a Bruno free-kick and Gio, were the goalscorers.
Villarreal did their homework on time after waking up from a nap that could have cost them dearly. A thrashing of Zurich, the bottom side in Group A in the Europa League and the leaders in Switzerland, was based on their talent in attack and their enviable capacity to react. The half-time break reawakened their consciousness. Thus, they have now secured nine consecutive home wins in the Europa League, one adrift of the record set by Atlètico and Benfica, and they are on track to qualify for the knockout stages. They have the motivation needed to tackle their forthcoming opponents Sevilla and Valencia, and the expected enthusiasm as they dream of a title.
Villarreal started enjoying and, above all, being efficient. Six minutes was all they needed to strike with a goal that encapsulated many of the virtues of this team. Jonathan robbed the ball in the middle of the park as a result of their pressing. Vietto picked it up and provided support. Espinosa, the next to take charge, sent a precise pass into space, through the defence. Gerard broke with intelligence, drew the goalkeeper and despite being able to score, gifted the goal to Cani. Forgetting that it is creditable. And without caring about being in the photo. Marcelino, who put him in, and El Madrigal, who is the one that evaluates him, stood up to recognise his gift. He was one of the men of the match because he pulled the rabbit out of the hat with a piece of play that created the second goal, which ultimately changed the match.
The 1-0 scoreline presaged a great night. It was the best thing that could have happened to Villarreal, numerically. However, mentally they self-destructed. The team relaxed. Their intensity cooled and that encouraged complacency. They were lost in defence and their ideas evaporated in attack. Only Gabriel maintained a sense of order at the back during that period and only Jonathan was determined not to miss the point further up. Zurich took control of the ball during that period and played with sense and with style. They only lacked a little bit of depth.
Chiumiento was good. Yapi Yapo was better. Marcelino was getting annoyed as the minutes passed until the equaliser, which was a rebound converted by Schonbach, and he ended by cursing it.
Vietto came close to scoring from a corner in the 46th minute. The problem was not individual, it was collective. Therefore, with only three wildcard changes, the ideal solution was to wait and to listen.
And with the resumption of the match, another Villarreal appeared. The one which everyone already knows. Fast, charged and direct. Espinosa could have scored in the 47th minute following a textbook display of combination play. Vietto appealed for a penalty, although it did not appear like one after. As Chiumiento claimed shortly afterwards. The improvement was evident, so much so that the good news was about to arrive. And it did. In the 57th minute Villarreal returned to weave another extraordinary move, with a perfect through ball to Gerard and an accurate cutback from Espinosa that Vietto did not squander.
Bruno’s free-kick three minutes later was even better, amazing in its beauty, and provided Zurich with their sentence; a goal which landed in the top corner and rewarded a superb midfielder. From that moment, Villarreal returned to their origins, Marcelino started to think about the Sánchez Pizjuán, and so he started to turn to the bench. He gave a breather to the pillars of the team (Vietto, Bruno and Cani) and provided more killer instinct (Cheryshev and Gio). Villarreal continued pushing, with the conviction and the fear that relaxing was prohibited. Thus came the fourth goal, through Gio, which prompted El Madrigal’s final ovation. Not for less. The Submarine walks fine.