In front of a noisy, colorful crowd at the Red Bull Arena in Salzburg, Villarreal defeated FC Salzburg 3-1 to win their Europa League group-of-32 tie 5-2 on aggregate.
The Salzburg fans displayed a large tifo of claws holding the Europa League symbol and a message in English about 'the team everyone fears ploughing another furrow' or something like that. Maybe that should have been a sign that in the end, Salzburg would provide more bluster than real content?
The home side began very well, pressuring Villarreal high up the pitch and making it difficult for the Submarine to possess the ball for any meaningful space of time, much less create a meaningful counterattack. Vietto did get away to create a bit of magic, keeping the ball in along the touchline and rounding a defender, but the keeper smothered the ball before he could pull it back and create space for a shot. Vietto had a really nice chance to open the scoring in the 17th minute but was pushed down outside the box--the referee didn't give the foul.
And a minute later, Salzburg got the start they needed, a shot from Djuricin beating the unsighted Asenjo--it might have taken a slight deflection as well. At that point, Salzburg led on away goals, so Villarreal knew they had to score, and they did so just after the 30-minute mark. The Salzburg defenders really didn't seem to have a lot of answers for Cheryshev or Vietto's speed except to haul them down, and the referee rightly awarded a freekick after Ramalho did exactly that to Cheryshev. Jonathan dos Santos's free kick was headed home by Vietto, who found space in front of the main group of players and directed the accurate free kick just inside the near post.
Salzburg's pressing was impressive in forcing Villarreal midfielders and defenders into panicked clearances, but for all that, when they did storm forward they didn't convert that pressure into a great opportunity. As the halftime whistle went and everyone caught their breath after such an intense half, the question was: could Salzburg keep that pressure up?
HT Salzburg 1-1 Villarreal
Marcelino said we would not try to defend our 2-1 lead from the first leg, and now that the tie was 3-2 on aggregate, would we sit back? No, because a second goal for us would mean Salzburg would have to score three more. And there were some positive signs for Villarreal from the off, as we won another free kick from another Ramalho foul on Vietto, and another one when Hinteregger took Cheryshev down.
Villarreal could have put the tie beyond reach with a brilliant counterattack, but Vietto's snap shot was pushed away by Galacsi. The keeper intervened again to clear a Pina shot with Cheryshev ready to tap it home, and it was obvious that though Salzburg were still capable of scoring themselves, Villarreal were finding many more chances than they had in the first half.
With just over 20 minutes left, Gio dos Santos came on for Uche; Salzburg had already made two subs in an effort to score a goal themselves. If things had ended up differently, we would have had a big talking point in the 71st minute, when Cheryshev was hauled down in the box by a tug on the shoulder when he was through on goal. The Danish referee either didn't see it or thought Chery went down too easily.
But, Villarreal got the goal they needed shortly afterward. A rather hopeful ball forward from Salzburg was cleared back from whence it came, and Gio dos Santos picked the ball up just over the halfway line, ran forward with Vietto in support, made Gulacsi come out, and slipped the ball to Lucho for an easy open goal.
And while Salzburg were still reeling from that, three minutes later Gio turned goalscorer with a fine shot past the keeper to finish off another break, and it was all over. The final 11 minutes plus stoppage time were uneventful.
FT Salzburg 1-3 Villarreal (2-5 agg)
An expecllent performance all round, as Marcelino said, "we suffered, but not too much". Endavant Villarreal!