Villarreal scored once either side of halftime, sandwiched around a Salzburg penalty, to earn a 2-1 in in the home leg of their round-of-32 tie. However, the Austrian side will feel pretty confident heading into the return leg next Thursday.
The Yellow Submarine came out with a first-choice XI including Luciano Vietto and Uche up front, and their speed, with that of Denis Cheryshev, caused numerous problems for Salzburg. The visitors looked to press up high and create quick chances themselves, so this was quite an aggressive match, with numerous hard tackles flying in from both sides.
Salzburg must have been quite a side with Alan and Kampf in their XI: as it was, they were excellently coached and well prepared, but perhaps relied more than they wanted to on Jonathan Soriano. Sergio Asenjo made a couple of outstanding saves for Villarreal in the first half-hour, one off Soriano, the other from a header off a corner. Villarreal took the lead through pressure of their own, Uche heading the ball to Vietto who created space and shot on goal--it was parried out, but Uche slammed it home from the top of the box. Villarreal took this narrow 1-0 lead into the break, though it has to be said it was a pretty even match at this point.
HT Villarreal 1-0 Salzburg
Within three minutes the match was turned on its head when Salzburg won a penalty, a sliding Victor Ruiz clumsily making contact with the Salzburg attacker. It looked worse than it was, but Ruiz was nowhere near getting the ball and contact was clearly made. Jonathan Soriano calmly slotted home the penalty and it was 1-1.
Villarreal responded quickly, going close from Uche before Cheryshev scored in the 54th minute. Then in quick succession came two talking points--first, Villarreal should have taken the lead, but Uche chipped rather than firmly struck the perfect pass from Vietto with only the keeper to beat, and it bounced off the keeper. More up, more to the far post, more hard-hit...well, virtually more anything, and it would have been a goal. And while El Madrigal was still frustrated because of that came a referee's call that looked as though it cost us a goal--or at least another full-blown chance.
Uche was barely in the Salzburg half and easily three feet onside, made a perfect run to latch onto a pass over the top, and had supprot on the left--but the linesman called the play back for offside. This has to be one of the worst calls at this level I've seen, and it cost us a 2-on-0 break for sure.
Both teams made subs with around 25 minutes to go, and it took some of the helter-skelter atmosphere out of the match. Joel Campbell and Gio dos Santos came on for Jona and Uche, and struggled to make any impact, while Salzburg had one good chance from Soriano but he shot straight at Asenjo. Salzburg coach Hutter threw an attacker on late to try and bring a result, but little happened, other than Joel Campbell and Jaume Costa each picked up cards for mistimed tackles.
Given how much the ref let go in the middle of the pitch, it would have been a pity had either been sent off, but as Javi Mata said, they were orange cards at least!
FT Villarreal 2-1 Salzburg
The result could have been worse, could have been better. Had Villarreal been able to score a third goal, I'd feel more confident, but Salzburg is not a team that is set up to defend a 1-0 lead. I expect we will have chances to score in Salzburg ourselves, and we'd better finish off one or two. Endavant!!