Derby County 1-1 Real Villarreal
Andreas Weimann scored a deserved second-half equaliser for the Rams, after Leo Baptistao had given Villarreal a first-half lead. After the break, Villarreal hit the post through Manuel Trigueros and Chris Martin had a shot cleared off the line. Darren Bent had the chance to win the game for the Rams late on, but his weak penalty kick was saved by Alphonse Areola.
It was good to be back at the iPro Pride Park Stadium and a very impressive pre-season crowd of 17,304 thought the same.
Paul Clement employed the 4-4-2 diamond formation for the third game running. Although competition for places is high, this system appears to have Tom Ince nailed on to play at the top of the diamond, with George Thorne the most likely to play at the base.
The main problem this system throws up is a lack of width with the full-backs the obvious outlets. Chris Baird and Stephen Warnock did their best, both got crosses in, but neither are at their best going forward and it will be interesting to see how Cyrus Christie and Craig Forsyth, both comfortable in the opposition’s half, will get on with this system.
Primarily it was left to the two central midfielders Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick to pull wide, provide width moving forward, as well as tracking back to cover their respective full-back. Hendrick looked solid enough; Hughes took time to adjust in the first-half, leaving the left flank open for Villarreal to exploit early on, but the England U21 international grew into the role as the game progressed and was sensational after the break.
On the ball though, the system does provide a plethora of attacking options and suits the passing game the Rams have become renowned for over the last couple of seasons. With Weimann a bundle of energy willing to run down everything, a lively Ince always looking for the ball, a skilful Hughes wider on the left, Martin linking up play, and Hendrick running down the right, there were plenty of options but a lack of composure at key times prevented the Rams capitalising as much as their build-up play deserved.
At times Derby County produced some scintillating and incisive passing with plenty of penetration. The midfield area opened up when the Rams had possession, allowing Thorne to demonstrate his range of passing, and creating space for an impressive Richard Keogh to make some surging runs with the ball.
Unfortunately a lot of the opportunities came to nothing with a poor quality final ball or a player wanting too much time. Once possession is lost, the space in midfield allowed Villarreal to launch their own attacks.
The 4-4-2 diamond system is pleasing on the eye and shows potential but there is still much work to do on the training ground, particularly when the opposition have the ball.
Ince beat the Villarreal wall with a free-kick, but his shot was comfortable for Mariano Barbosa to save.
A Warnock cross, saw Weimann show great skill in the penalty area with a clever header to himself, but his second header didn’t have enough height or power to beat Barbosa.
Thorne hit a powerful long-range shot that was blocked by a crowd of Villarreal defenders.
Villarreal took the lead on 27 minutes. Derby didn’t close down quickly enough allowing Antonio Rukavina to hit a shot from outside the penalty area. Lee Grant did well to stop the shot, but will think he should’ve done better. Instead of diverting the ball away from goal, the ball fell to Baptistao in a central position and it was easy for him to slot the ball home.
The Rams sent a number of hard low crosses into the danger area that nobody could get on the end of.
Weimann needed too much time in the penalty area and his chance was gone.
Martin had a great opportunity inside the box but opted to cut inside and beat a defender, rather than shooting, and his chance was gone too.
A quick counter-attack with Weimann and Ince showing their pace saw the Rams with a man advantage, but Thorne overhit his pass and the goalkeeper collected the ball comfortably.
Villarreal made nine changes at half-time and struggled to get to grips with a Derby County side that had the better of the second-half.
A good cross from Baird saw Martin’s shot saved by substitute goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
A fine free-kick from Hendrick looked to be heading for the top corner only for Areola to tip it over the bar with a good save.
Great work by Hughes out left saw him beat two defenders, run into the penalty area near the touchline, and cut the ball back, only for Weimann to completely miss the ball with an air-shot and Ince shot wide.
Another good run down the left by Hughes saw him cross the ball into the box but it was a little too high for Weimann and his header lacked power.
Hendrick fired a stunning half-volley narrowly wide.
On 63 minutes Derby County grabbed a deserved equaliser, moments after Villarreal had hit the post. Good work by Martin, allowed Ince to slide a ball through to Weimann. The Austrian international looked set to score but Areola saved. The rebound fell kindly for Weimann to score at the second attempt.
Thorne hit a fierce shot that was deflected over the bar.
Ince put Martin through with just the goalkeeper to beat. Martin took his time rounding Areola allowing Mario Gaspar to get behind the goalkeeper and clear the shot off the line.
The Rams had a number of corners in both halves that largely came to nothing. From one of Ince’s better corners, Alex Pearce saw his header deflected wide.
Johnny Russell came on for the last 18 minutes and looked lively and sharp. He won the ball late on, found Ince, who played Russell into the penalty area. As Derby’s top goalscorer in pre-season looked to shoot he was bundled over. Another substitute, Darren Bent, stepped up to take the penalty. The shot was tame, too close to the goalkeeper, and Areola dived to his left and saved comfortably.
Bent was only on the pitch for about ten minutes. He made a couple of good off-the-ball runs but was caught offside when the through balls came.