Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Match Report: Sevilla 3 Villarreal 0

FT: Sevilla 3 (Renato 7, Kanoute 47, Alexis 50) - Villarreal 0

Sevilla secured their passage into the Copa Del Rey semi-finals with a comfortable 6-3 aggregate win over Villarreal.

Both managers surprised many onlookers with their line-ups, Gregorio Manzano and Juan Carlos Garrido taking the opportunity to rest some of their star names. Sevilla made four changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Espanyol at the weekend. The most striking omission being that of Jesús Navas, while Sergio Sánchez made his long-awaited return after 13 months out with heart problems. Garrido handed a first start to Cicinho at right-back and surprisingly left Marco Rubén and Bruno on the bench, Jefferson Montero starting on the right side of midfield with Mateo Musacchio in the centre and Jozy Altidore up front alongside Giuseppe Rossi.

That two sides in the top half of La Liga that should be looking for cup success should choose to field weakened teams is a sad reflection, not just on the Copa Del Rey, but on the whole atmosphere surrounding Spanish football. It is more likely that instead of simply prioritising upcoming league and Europa League fixtures both managers saw the likelihood of facing Real Madrid over two-legs in the semi-finals and a potential final against Barcelona as such a daunting task that qualification to the last four does not possess the excitement that it should do.

However, Manzano’s changes ultimately proved inspired. With Sánchez offered the extra protection of Alexis and Fernando Navarro either side of him in a back three, Sevilla switched to a 3-5-2. It was a system that certainly suited Martin Cáceres who was extremely dangerous moving forward from right wing-back.

In contrast Villarreal never really got to grips with the game and looked understandably disjointed. Cani and Borja Valero were unable to exert the influence in midfield that they had in recent weeks and Montero and Altidore did little to boost their chances of further first team action.

The pattern of play was set by an early goal for the hosts. Mouhamadou Dabo played the ball across from the left and Renato was on hand to make sure Álvaro Negredo’s flick over Diego López crossed the line.

Negredo could have added a second five minutes later but headed wide from Cáceres’ excellent cross. Both goalkeepers then ensured the scoreline remained 1-0 at half-time. Firstly, Sevilla’s Javi Varas, deputising for injured captain Andrés Palop, tipped Gonzalo’s header onto the bar before denying Rossi with a wonderful save after Altidore’s only major contribution to the game had sent the Italian through. At the other end, López parried Koffi Romaric’s fierce drive before snatching the loose ball at Negredo’s feet.

However, the Galician’s efforts were to no avail as Sevilla put the tie to bed with two goals within five minutes of the second-half. Villarreal’s propensity to give up goals at set-pieces has been cruelly exposed in recent weeks and it was their Achilles heel here as well. First, Freddie Kanouté thundered home his 13th goal of the season from Romaric’s corner. And three minutes later the Ivorian’s delivery found Alexis, who was credited with the goal despite the fact that Villarreal defender Jose Mauel Catalá appeared to get the final touch.

From then on the tie was over but Garrido’s strange decision making continued as he introduced Marco Rubén and Bruno with little under half an hour remaining.

Negredo should have capped a fine performance with a goal but blazed over having been played in by Kanouté.

Overall, it was another satisfactory night in the cup for the holders - a win that should also ease the pressure of Manzano. A sixth Copa Del Rey success should be a formality. After all, it’s only Real and Barca that stand in the way.

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