Villarreal fell out of Europe yesterday, with a disappointing 2-1 win over Zenit St. Petersburg, as Zenit went through to the Round of 16 on away goals. Villarreal came into the match in middling form, to say the least, but should have been able to hold an out-of-season Zenit out of the net at El Madrigal.
Zenit came into the match with a one-goal advantage from last week's tie in ice-cold Russia. Villarreal started with Diego Lopez in goal, Angel, Godin, Gonzalo and Capdevila across the back, Pires, Senna, Josico and Cazorla in midfield, and Tomasson and Rossi in front.
Zenit managed to pad their lead to a seemingly insurmountable margin when Pavel Pogrebniak headed home a poor clearance attempt by Diego Lopez in the 31st minute. It was 0-1 at the half, and Villarreal went aggressive by sending Franco in for a slightly-injured Josico. Zenit were limited to ten men just after the half when Roman Shirokov picked up a second yellow card in the 47th. Villarreal were dealt a blow of their own, though, when Rossi went down with an ankle injury in the 51st minute. Rossi was replaced by Nihat, and Villarreal was out of strikers on the bench.
The path to European glory was looking bleaker by the minute, and Bruno was substituted for Senna in the 63rd. Finally, the breakthrough came in the 75th minute when an unguarded Franco headed in a cornerkick. Amazingly, Zenit was then dropped to nine men when Radek Shirl received his second yellow for time wasting in the 82nd. Villarreal took a step towards a miraculous comeback when Tomasson knocked in the rebound from a Pires shot that was saved off the line in the 90th minute.
Villarreal were given a brief hope when the 4th official indicated five minutes of stoppage time. It was not to be, however, and Villarreal bowed out of Europe much to early against a lesser team.