"NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!" in the immortal words of Monty Python. Did Barcelona expect to put five past Shaktar? Did Real Madrid expect to win 4-0 against Spurs? And did Villarreal supporters expect a four-goal win tonight? Well, probably no, no, and no, but that's how it turned out, as Villarreal brushed the Dutch league leaders FC Twente aside with a 5-1 victory before a delighted crowd in Vila-real.
Villarreal - Twente Full Highlights Europa League quater finals first leg (via vavact)
If 5-1 seemed an improbable scoreline before the match, it seemed more so after the first fifteen minutes. Even during the pregame ceremonies the Villarreal players seemed nervous, and once the game started the nerves began to show, as Twente had a couple of early corners and Musacchio had to make a diving interception of a dangerous cross. And the Russian referee was worrying, granting free kicks to Twente in dangerous positions but allowing physical challenges and fouls to pass in midfield without punishment. Fortunately Theo Janssen's radar was off, as his two freekicks failed to trouble Diego López in our goal.
It was a cagey start, but Villarreal began to come into it a bit more, with Borja so nearly finding Nilmar with a through ball. And in the 22nd minute, Villarreal drew first blood--a Borja Valero header was flicked on by Catalá's head and an unmarked Carlos Marchena headed the ball powerfully home.
That goal seemed to give Villarreal more confidence, as Borja Valero and Santi Cazorla dominated midfield and Twente's offense wa reduced to hopeful through balls. Villarreal was playing a high line and applying pressure in midfield to win the ball back early, and Twente was finding possession increasingly difficult. On 34 minutes a second goal seemed certain, with Borja putting Nilmar through but his chip over Mihaylov struck the right post and bounced away. Twente were struggling to create anything, with Ruiz and Janko (who had replaced DeJong due to injury) looking increasingly lonely up front.
The five minutes before the half sealed their fate. Twente couldn't get out of their half; Borja Valero was hacked down in midfield (the referee again taking no notice) but Santi Cazorla won the ball back and began a sequence that ended with Borja bursting into the box, receiving a pass from Santi (being kept onside by a hapless Tukker defender in the middle of the box), and slotting a shot past Mihaylov. 2-0 at the half would've been great, but there was still more to come. It wasn't quite Stoke City, but Mario's long throw(!) was headed on to Nilmar by Twente skipper Wisgerhof's attempted clearance, and the Brazilian made no mistake.
Halftime: Villarreal CF 3 FC Twente 0
Submarine supporters would've been happy with the halftime scoreline, but there was more to come. The Tukkers began the second half more confidently, though Bryan Ruiz surely was offside when he headed wide in the 53rd minute. But Twente was looking amateurish at the back, with Mihaylov having to make a fine save from Rossi after a bad giveaway, and a minute later Twente was in trouble again. This time Rossi left Mihaylov helpless with a left-footed shot into the net. 4-0!!
Unfortunately, the match wasn't over yet. In the 70th minute Gonzalo broke up a pass intended for Janko near the byline and headed forward, only to be scythed down from behind. I don't believe malice was intended, but it was certainly worse than even a poor "striker's challenge" and was deserving of a red card.
Yet again, the Russian referee simply hadn't kept up with the pace of the play and wasn't well sighted, only awarding Janko a yellow card. Gonzalo was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg, and he's now confirmed (via twitter from the Castellón hospital!) that he has a fractured fibula and is out for the season.
The goals weren't done. Rossi put Nilmar through with ten minutes to go to make it 5-0. Unfortunately in the first minute of injury time Villarreal was guilty of a bit of lazy play, as a poor pass behind Rossi handed possession to the Tukkers, for practically the first time all game a Villarreal player failed to block a dangerous cross, and Janko headed home over both Musacchio and López.
After the first fifteen minutes or so, Villarreal played their best game of the season, and the possession statistics bore this out. The conjunt groguet had 70% of the possession and looked dangerous time after time. Twente may lead the Dutch league, but tonight they were simply overwhelmed.
Garrido seems to have learned from Mourinho and Pep, as both Cazorla and Nilmar received rather cynical yellow cards that will keep them from going to the Netherlands, Cani and Ruben doubtless going in their place. With Porto also winning easily at home, it's looking like a Porto-Villarreal semifinal, barring a major collapse by either side.
Another fantastic night in El Madrigal. Congratulations to Coach Garrido and the Yellow Submarine, and we send best wishes for a successful recovery to Captain Gonzalo. Endavant Villarreal!!