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Athletic Club 3-2 Villarreal: Yellow Submarine fold in last 30 minutes

A two-goal halftime lead falls away under Bilbao pressure and passive defensive tactics.

David Rogers/Getty Images

Villarreal had a dream start in Bilbao, but couldn't hold it and fell to Athletic Club 3-2 in a vibrant first leg in the Cop around of 16.  The oft-maligned ex-Malaga duo of Samu Castillejo and Samuel Garcia were involved in two first half goals for Villarreal (one from Garcia, one from Leo Baptistao) while the home side created some chances but couldn't break through.

The second half was a different story, though, with the Basques applying the pressure; Iñaki Williams made it 2-1 early in the second half, though I thought he was just offside in beating a desultory defensive trap, the referee didn't, and that goal was the sign to introduce Aduriz into the fray, who always gives us problems.  He duly equalized a dozen minutes later as Williams made a nice run, beating Samu C, passed the ball into the box and no one picked up Aduriz.

Villarreal went defensive, bringing on Mario Gaspar for the ineffective Nahuel, but that move backfired when our Spanish international was immediately booked for a push on Susaeta.   And Bilbao scored again from an 81st minute free kick, nicely taken to be sure but it's never a good idea to leave an attacker unmarked at your near post, Eric Bailly!!--Laporte duly scored while we watched.

To complete a nightmarish 20 minutes, Mario was sent off for a second yellow, which seemed on a poor stream at least to be somewhat spurious, he put out his arm to block a player who went down clutching his head.  The remaining time was spent mostly with Bilbao players falling freely to win fouls and Villarreal trying to get out of San Mames with a one-goal defeat rather than two; both teams could tell another Bilbao goal would be big, and they nearly had it from a corner, but the shot was wide.

Losing 3-2 in the first leg isn't dreadful, there is always an opportunity to overturn it 1-0 or 2-1 in El Madrigal, but the mistakes from players like Bailly and Pina in the second half loom large.  Marcelino will be livid.  Expect some changes in our lineup for the second leg.

Goals are her e.