Villarreal began quickly and for the first five to ten minutes controlled play, but apart from a quick turn and shot from the top of the box from Soldado, which went wide, there was little danger for the Rapid defense. In fact, the Austrians could have gone in front from a nice free kick halfway through the period after Jaume Costa picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul just outside our area, but Barbosa tipped the drive over the top. The referee fortunately missed a blatant shirt pull from Ruiz on Sonnleitner. The visitors had most of the ball for the remainder of the half without creating danger themselves, but Marcelino was an increasingly frustrated figure in our technical area as Villarreal struggled to get back in the match. On the stroke of halftime Denis Suarez, by far our best player in the half, created a half-chance for Bakambu but his shot went wide. Story of the half.
HT Villarreal 0-0 Rapid Vienna
Whatever Marcelino had said at halftime seemed to sink in because the second half belonged to Villarreal, and only the inability of our strikers to convert easy chances kept the match close. Bakambu came off for Samu Garcia after only six minutes of the half, and both Samu G and Soldado could--and should-- have scored, Bobby Soldier hitting the post with the keeper beaten after already having come close with a couple of half-chances.
Villarreal's ability to win the ball back was much better this half, but it seemed as though the Submarine was snakebit when it came to scoring. However, with a dozen minutes left, we won a corner, it bounced off Victor Ruiz's feet right to Bruno Soriano, who slid the ball home past the unsighted keeper.
Rapid should have equalized a couple of minutes later in practically their only attack from open play of the half, but with the goal at his mercy Paselic couldn't direct his shot on target. Maybe he'd been watching our efforts....
It really should have been all over with five minutes left, but Samu Garcia's attempt to round the keeper when through failed. Nonetheless, as the clock wound down it really didn't seem as though Rapid had much to offer. However, with maybe twenty seconds left a hopeful ball down our left flank led to an ill-advised Victor Ruiz foul. The Austrians brought their keeper up for the attack (their substitute keeper; their first suffered a shoulder injury an hour in), but though one of their players directed a header on goal, it was, fortunately, straight at Barbosa.
FT Villarreal 1-0 Rapid Vienna
Here's where we are in the Europa League. The following teams have qualified: Molde, Liverpool, FC Krasnodar, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli (will finish 1st in their group), Villarreal, Rapid Wien, Braga, Lazio (will be 1st), St.Etienne (will be 2nd), Tottenham, Schalke, Sparta Prague, Athletic Bilbao. Some good teams in there, and then there are the eight clubs that finish third in the Champions League who come in as well.
We need to play more like we did in the second half--and convert some of those chances(!!!!)--to progress very far. First, though, there is a big match in the Czech Republic--if we win against Viktoria Plzen, we will finish first in the group which in theory gives us an easier draw in the round of 32.