First Division - Day 21

Villarreal 2 - Alavés 0

Villarreal: López Vallejo; Galván, Quique Alvarez, Unai, Arruabarrena; Jorge López, Amor (Javier Gracia 53'), Cagna, Calleja; Víctor (Escoda 82'), Palermo (Craioveanu 66'). 4-4-2.
Alavés: Herrera; Contra, Eggen, Geli, Ibon Begoña; Desio, Pablo (Magno 52'); Tomic, Jordi Cruyff (Mario 75'), Astudillo; Iván Alonso (Vucko 75'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Villarreal: Galván, Jorge López, Calleja, Palermo for Xavi Roca, Berruet, Javier Gracia, Craioveanu / Alavés: Tomic, Iván Alonso for Téllez, Javi Moreno.

1-0. 14. Víctor. Shot from edge of area after Palermo headed back Calleja cross.
2-0. 91. Craioveanu. Rounded Herrera on second attempt after keeper saved.

Martín Palermo made his debut in front of a euphoric crowd and he didn't disappoint, setting up an early goal for Víctor and battling for everything as Villarreal moved up into fifth place in the table with a good victory over Alavés. Palermo was one of four changes as Víctor Muñoz went back to his 4-4-2 line up for this match, with his opponents having to make changes to their defence with Karmona still injured and Téllez suspended. Top scorer Javi Moreno was also serving a one match ban after picking up his fifth yellow card last week, and Iván Alonso got a rare start up front, with Romania's Contra recovering from a midweek knee injury to take his place for the first time as an EU player after winning his recent court case. A giant yellow mosaic met the players as the came out in front a capacity 17,000 crowd, most of whom appeared to be wearing the number 23 shirt.

One of the obvious advantages of having Palermo in the side is that it gives other players more space, and Víctor took advantage with a quarter of an hour gone, coming from behind to volley a shot past Herrera after Palermo headed the ball back into his path. Other than that though both sides were off target, with Cruyff shooting wide on a couple of occasions and López Vallejo taking the ball off Alonso's head at one end, and Arruabarrena and Víctor getting caught in possession at the other. Palermo was unlucky not to get not one but two penalties early in the second half, Contra's challenge leaving him with his shorts around his knees and his underpants in full view on one occasion (rumours that 15 young girls needed medical attention were denied afterwards).

Eventually the hero was replaced by Craioveanu halfway through the second half, and the big striker took advantage of his opportunity to add a second goal in injury time to wrap up victory. The yellow submarine is rapidly rising to the surface, and dreams of a place in Europe are closer than ever to becoming reality. Some supporters have renamed the side Bocarreal, with so many ex Boca Juniors players in the side, and if they can win half as many trophies as their Argentinian counterparts they will be more than happy. Last year's revelation team Alavés missed their Pichichi Javi Moreno, and after a bad string of results drop out of the top half of the table for the first time since the start of the season. The king is dead, long live the king!