Sunday, 6 February 2011

Match Report: Villarreal 0 Levante 1

FT: Villarreal 0 – Levante 1 (Valdo 47)

Levante produced one of the shocks of the season to defeat local rivals Villarreal 1-0 at El Madrigal.

Valdo scored the only goal for the visitors who fully merited only their second away win of the season against a lethargic and extremely disappointing home side.

The hosts welcomed back Brazilian striker Nilmar and Carlos Marchena started at centre-back but both demonstrated a severe lack of match sharpness after long spells out with injury.

Villarreal had come into the game with the league’s second best home record, 10 victories and one draw from 11 games, but you couldn’t have guessed which side was going for the Champions League and which was fighting relegation in the opening 20 minutes.

The visitors, inspired by last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Getafe, started very positively. Christian Stuani headed wide and Juanfran was denied by Diego Lopez before Valdo had a goal rightly disallowed for offside.

Villarreal began to get going as the half went on, Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar beginning to get their partnership back up and running, and it was some good link-up play between the two that created the home side’s first real opportunity. Gustavo Munua in the Levante goal doing exceptionally well to parry Rossi’s volley.

Levante started the second-half like they had the first and used their pace up front to particularly good effect. Stuani got in behind the struggling centre-back pairing of Marchena and Gonzalo but his chip didn’t quite have the legs to arch over the giant frame of Lopez. However, less than a minute later the visitors deservedly had their lead. This time it was Valdo who left Marchena in his wake to round Lopez and fire high into the empty net.

The reaction from Villarreal following the goal was particularly disappointing for those that have seen them shine this season. Levante did exceptionally well to maintain their pressure on the ball high up the field, particularly on Bruno and Borja Valero in the midfield. This had the major advantage of asphyxiating the service that those two normally provide for Cani and Cazorla ahead of them. Consequently Rossi and Nilmar didn’t get the normal, accurate balls into the channels to run into or even allow the front two to get involved in the intricate play around the box that the yellow submarine have used to such great effect at home this season. Moreover, the Villareal full-backs, Joan Capdevila and Mario, (their only source of width given how narrow Cani and Cazorla play) didn’t provide the attacking threat they have done regularly this term.

Indeed, recognising the dual problems of Marchena’s lack of pace being exposed and the disappointing performance of his full-backs, Juan Carlos Garrido substituted Marchena and Capdevila and moved Mario to centre-back with Cicinho coming on to play at right-back.

Yet, the changes made no real effect as remarkably Villarreal didn’t register a single shot on target in the second-half.

Levante should have made the game safe on a number of occasions but a combination of a lack of composure and confidence saw promising counter-attacks wasted time after time. The impressive Xavi Torres coming closest on 73 minutes when his low effort forced Lopez into a smart save.

Those being critical of Levante’s display would rightfully say that they managed to destroy the spectacle with constant tactical fouling and time-wasting. Problem was that Villarreal’s performance meant there was no spectacle to destroy. A rare off night for Garrido’s men costing them the chance to close the gap on Real Madrid to just three points.

Levante won’t care about that or indeed any criticism of how they went about their business. A second consecutive victory allowing them to climb to within one point of safety.

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