Villarreal’s Tommy Gemmell clone Joan Capdevila found out the hard way on Saturday night that Spanish referees do not have a sense of humour and that irony in particular can be very dangerous and costly.

This card IS for Busquets

Readers of the recent GGW article on “Villarreal sinking beneath the European waves” will remember that in the game against Barcelona the referee undoubtedly showed Busquets  a yellow card then cowardly pretended he had shown it to Llorente when he realised that since Busquets had already been booked, he would be sending a Barca man off. Even more amazingly, given the video and photographic evidence supporting the claim that he definitely showed the card to Busquets,  the Appeal Committee threw out Villarreal’s appeal against that yellow card to Llorente.

Saturday night saw Villarreal in a comfortable 2-0 lead against a lethargic Valencia side that had already confirmed third place in La Liga and an automatic qualification for the Group Stages of the Champions League.

Llorente, one goal then off

With 20 minutes left Llorente who had scored the second  Villarreal goal rushed about in his usual hyper-active headless chicken way and made an unnecessarily crude lunge on a Valencia defender. Really there could be little objection to the second yellow card and related red card the referee showed to Llorente.  Capdevila who had been having  a very good game, was standing near the referee when he showed the red card to Llorente.

Capdevilla asks "Is this card for Busquets"

Sardonically he said to the referee “I suppose that card is for Busquets”. Unamused, the humourless referee showed a yellow card to Capdevila who immediately said again “And I suppose that one was for Busquets too”. Even more unamused, the referee showed him first another yellow card and then a red one. His team-mates had to prevent an incensed Capdevila for saying even more inflammatory things to the unbending official. In one sense it was criminally irresponsible to unnecessarily reduce your team mates to nine men with a full twenty minutes to go, especially when he had been well warned with the hostile response to his first comment. But that kind of thing was why Tommy Gemmell was particularly loved by Celtic supporters and in truth not one of the Villarreal supporters around me seemed to blame Capdevila, only the sad unsmiling referee. A good, sensible intelligent referee would have responded to Capdevilla’s first comment by telling him to behave, that he knew exactly who he was carding and any more cheek and he would get one too. But unfortunately this referee was not good, sensible or intelligent.

Fortunately the remaining 9 Villarreal players focused on holding their lead rather than engaging in satirical comment.  Garrido brought on three substitutes. Departing Javi Venta and Robert Pires  were given a last chance to strut their stuff before the Madrigal faithful and one knew they weren’t going to have the memory ruined by losing a game that had been well won. Indeed Pires several times cleverly worked opportunities where he was nearly put clean through and the third time it came off and only a desperate save prevented a real fairy tale ending to his Villarreal career.

Senna was brought on for the last 4 minutes, and in that time displayed a calm secure certainty that made a nonsense of the decision to start and keep him on the bench. To understand this more, GGW readers will have to wait for “The Curious Case of the Lips that moved in the Night” post. With the help of these three well-motivated substitutes Villarreal held out and defied all Valencia attempts to capitalise on their 2 man advantage.

President Fernando Roig thanks two great club servants, Pires and Javi Venta

Before the game, in front of a full stadium,  President Fernando Roig had presented both Pires and Javi Venta with medals in appreciation of their tremendous contributions to the club. The obvious affection and mutual respect between all three men says much about why Villarreal is such a unique and successful club

Unfortunately for Villarreal the win did not enhance their chances of Europa League qualification since Malaga failed to take a point of Getafe. Both clubs now have

55 points with one match remaining but since Getafe have the better heads-on results against Villarreal their destiny is in their own hands while Villarreal will require Getafe to slip up. Getafe’s last game is away against Atletico Madrid but that is better than it sounds since it will be sandwiched between Atletico’s Europa League Final this coming Wednesday and their Copa Del Rey Final the following Wednesday

Villarreal’s last game is away to a Zaragoza side that  on Saturday found themselves definitely safe from relegation despite a 3-2 loss to bottom team Xerez so Villrreal should find that a relatively easy game, but a victory will be in vain if a distracted Atletico take it easy against Getafe.

The Plans B and C of the recent GGW article on “Villarreal sinking beneath the European waves” are still in place.

Plan B looks a bit ropey given Mallorca failed to take advantage of Barca’s victory over Sevilla by losing away to Deportivo. Sevilla are 1 point ahead, with a better head to head record against Mallorca and their last game, away to an already safe Almeria doesn’t look too onerous. Mallorca are likely to win at home against Espanol but Sevilla must now be favourites for the 4th Champions League slot. This would guarantee Atletico a Europa League place, as cup-runners-up, even if they lose the Final. There is no absolute clarification as yet from UEFA but the SISIF understanding is that if Atletico Madrid win the Europa League but also qualify anyway in Spain, then the holder’s reserved place will be seen as unnecessary and allocated not to Spain but to Denmark.(Don’t ask unless you really want to know and have a degree in mathematics!!) So Plan B requires Sevilla to fail against Almeria, but then beat Atletico, while Mallorca beat Espanol. Then Villarreal, guaranteed 7th place, will get the other Spanish Europa League place.

Ironically Mallorca’s poor performance against Deportivo which made Plan B more unlikely, may paradoxically make Plan C more likely. This plan requires Mallorca to enter the Spanish equivalent of bankruptcy over the summer, under the Law Concursal. Now there have been strong well-informed rumours for months that come the summer that is exactly what will happen. The possibility of Champions League revenues might help avoid that outcome but Europa League revenues are unlikely to save them.

So none of Plan A, Plan B or Plan C look certain to allow Villarreal to qualify for Europe for the 9th consecutive year. But The Yellow  Submarine, bouyed by the convincing victory over Valencia isn’t settling for life on the seabed bottom yet.

GGW will keep readers informed of how all three plans unfold.