Two goals in three second-half minutes were the key as Villarreal dispatched a clearly second-best FC Zürich in front of a good crowd at El Madrigal, 4-1. It almost came too easy for the Submarine, as Villarreal scored early--in the 6th minute-with Cani finishing off a fine team effort (passes from Espinosa and Bruno, dribble in the box from Gerard to round the keeper, slide the ball in front for the easiest goal Cani will ever score). And for the first 20 or 25 minutes it was all Villarreal, as the Submarine pressed high and continually threatened Zurich's three-man back line.
In the last third of the half, Zurich began to see more of the ball, and Marcelino didn't seem happy with the Villarreal effort. Three minutes before the break the visitors equalized--a free kick into the box was controlled by one of the Swiss players, who drew three defenders to him and passed the ball to an onrushing Schonbachler who finished off the chance. That seemed to wake Villarreal up, and Vietto's header on the stroke of halftime could have given the home side the lead again, but was neatly saved.
HT Villarreal 1-1 Zurich
Whatever Marcelino said at halftime, it clearly worked, because the second half was all Villarreal. Jonathan dos Santos, Bruno, and Cani controlled midfield, and Espinosa should have scored but put his shot wide, then Vietto's run into the box was broken up--an appeal for a penalty, but he went down rather too easily for that. Vietto did score though to give Villarreal the lead, and again it was an excellent team move, Espinosa and Gerard again involved leaving Vietto with little to do except tap the ball into an empty net.
The match effectively ended just three minutes later when Bruno Soriano's textbook free kick flew over the Swiss wall and past the keeper, and Giovani dos Santos (who had come on for Vietto) finished things off in style with a fourth goal with just under fifteen minutes left.
FT Villarreal 4-1 Zurich
Another positive performance ahead of a couple of tough matches in La Liga. I was impressed with Gerard and Jonathan dos Santos in their starting roles. Except for the last 15 minutes of the first half, the team was focused, pressed well and attacked vertically with speed at every opportunity.
In the other match in the group, Gladbach defeated Apollon Limassol 5-0, so it's pretty clear Villarreal and Gladbach are the class of this bunch. We play Zurich again, this time in Switzerland in two weeks' time. A win there would certainly see us through to the knockout round.