Villarreal came away with a point against Atlético Madrid after a great match. The Yellows deserved the win for how they played and the good chances they had. Atleti went in front through Filipe Luis and the Yellow Submarine equalised through Mario Gaspar.
Javi Calleja lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1. Manuel Iturra started for the first time in a Villarreal shirt (he had already come off the bench at Leganés), as part of a double pivot alongside Manu Trigueros. Gerard Moreno played as a lone striker, with Pablo Fornals, Santi Cazorla and Alfonso Pedraza playing off him.
The match was exciting from the first minute, with both teams pressing intensely. Villarreal moved the ball quickly with surgical precision to try and cause problems for the solid Atleti defence. It wasn’t easy, with Diego Simeone´s side recovering quickly in each piece of play. Despite that, the Yellows had three clear chances in front of goal in the first half.
The first of them had a lot to do with Fornals’ magic. The No.8 played a beautiful pass to Mario, with the right-back playing the ball across goal which Gerard could not quite reach (min. 12). The second chance came when Ramiro Funes Mori played a long ball to Pedraza, with the winger controlling the ball spectacularly, before playing it across for Fornals to shoot just wide. The third chance saw Jaume Costa play a cross-cum-shot into the box, which after a deflection looked dangerously close, but was kept out by a great Jan Oblak save. Atlético also had chances, with Antoine Griezmann’s long-range effort and a header from Saúl Ñíguez.
The second half started with a bang. Atlético Madrid got ahead on the scoreboard. Griezmann’s free-kick from out wide hit the bar after touching a Villarreal defender, with Luis being first to the ball to head home the rebound (0-1, min. 50).
Calleja reacted by making an attacking change with Carlos Bacca replacing Iturra. Cazorla moved back to play alongside Trigueros in the middle of the pitch. Only a few seconds later, it was 1-1. Mario put the final touches to a never-ending piece of play, after a cross from Bacca which played pinball in the area before arriving at the feet of the Yellow’s No.2. The right-back scored with a deft shot with his right foot (min. 65).
One of the best bits of news from the match was the return of Santi Cáseres. The Argentinean came on in the 72nd minute replacing his teammate Pedraza. The No.5 has not played since injuring his left knee in the match against Girona FC (31st August).
In the final minutes at the Estadio de la Cerámica the match went crazy. Villarreal could have made it 2-1 through Gerard and Bacca. Both strikers attempted to net the winner for the Yellows but were stopped by Jan Oblak when the whole stadium thought the ball would go in. Cazorla also had a great chance to score the winner after some excellent play down the right wing and a lofted cross in by Fornals. The No.19 slid to meet the ball in the box but could not quite convert the chance.
Villarreal’s next match is this Thursday against SK Rapid Vienna on Matchday 3 of the Group Stage of the UEFA Europa League (9pm CEST, Estadio de la Cerámica).
Villarreal CF: Asenjo, Mario Gaspar, Álvaro, Funes Mori, Jaume Costa; Iturra (Bacca, min. 63 (Toko Ekambi, min. 76)), Trigueros; Cazorla, Fornals, Pedraza (Cáseres, min. 72); Gerard.
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Giménez, Lucas Hernández, Filipe Luis (Godín, min. 76); Saúl, Thomas, Rodrigo (Lemar, min. 46), Koke; Griezmann, Kalinic (Correa, min. 46).
Goals: 0-1. Min. 50: Filipe Luis. 1-1. Min. 65: Mario Gaspar.
Referee: Estrada Fernández. Booked: Iturra, Álvaro, Pedraza (Villarreal); Juanfran (Atlético Madrid).
Matchday information: Match corresponding to Matchday 9 of LaLiga at the Estadio de la Cerámica in front of an attendance of 17,518.