First Division - Day 36

Villarreal 2 - Osasuna 0

Villarreal: López Vallejo; Xavi Roca (Schelotto 85'), Berruet, Quique Medina, Arruabarrena; Jorge López, Amor, Javier Gracia (Galván 75'), Escoda; Víctor, Palermo (Moisés 88'). 4-4-2.
Osasuna: Nuno; Cruchaga, Yanguas, Vidakovic (Alfonso 46'); Gerardo, Lekumberri, Llorens (Sabino 50'); Palacios (Ziganda 75'), Gancedo, Angel; Iván Rosado. 3-3-3-1.

Team changes: Villarreal: Xavi Roca, Quique Medina, Escoda for Galván, Quique Alvarez, Calleja / Osasuna: Llorens, Palacios, Angel for Jusué, Alex Fernández, Sabino.

1-0. 23. Escoda. Shot into empty net after Palermo challenged Nuno for cross.
2-0. 64. Palermo. Following up after Escoda shot blocked by Nuno.

Villarreal kept up their challenge for a place in the UEFA cup with an important victory over relegation candidates Osasuna. The game signalled the return to form of Martín Palermo, who had a hand in the first goal and scored the second, combining in both with Escoda, who was replacing the injured Calleja. Villarreal always had the game under control, and opened the scoring halfway through the first half, the ball falling loose to Escoda after Palermo had bundled into the keeper, referee Pérez Burrull turning down claims both for a foul on Nuno and for a handball by the Argentinian striker in the same action. López Vallejo saved well first from Gerardo and then from a Llorens free kick within the first half hour, but then Osasuna's challenge faded, with hardly a decent shot at goal after that.

On the stroke of half time Nuno had to keep out another effort from Víctor, and Miguel Angel Lotina quickly decided to change his team around, bringing on Alfonso and Sabino early in the second half, but surprisingly not turning to Alex Fernández, who had been left on the bench for this match for tactical reasons. Alex had been linked with a move to Celta a few days ago, but afterwards said that he would stay with Osasuna next season if they stay up in the first division. In his absence the only danger came from Iván Rosado, and twenty minutes in to the second half the striker fired a shot against the crossbar with López beaten. However the ball bounced out, and on the resulting counterattack Palermo scored the second, following up after Nuno was unable to hold on to Ecoda's shot from the edge of the area.

As time ran out Víctor Muñoz brought on his three substitutes to play out the match, although this time he did not use Craioveanu, who had been in trouble with police midweek when he broke a lady driver's nose after she drove out in front of his car ignoring a stop sign (no comment). He wasn't needed anyway as Villarreal took the three points to stay a point behind sixth placed Celta, who they visit in their next match. Even if they don't win that game, they could still qualify for the UEFA cup though if Celta or Barcelona win the Spanish cup final, which would mean that the seventh placed team goes in to the competition as well. Osasuna look doomed after the weekend's results, level at the bottom with Racing and Numancia, now four points away from safety.