Villarreal had qualification from this group virtually in its grasp, but couldn’t hold on, concedi ng a late penalty that resulted in a 1-1 draw.
The Yellow Submarine should have put this away by halftime. Alexandre Pato, Denis Cheryshev and Cedric Bakambu were creating danger anytime the Submarine got the ball in the Zurich half of the pitch. Yet, the only goal of the half came from a Villarreal corner, Bruno Soriano rising to head a Trigueros corner into the net past keeper Vanins.
The Latvian keeper made two excellent saves and Bangoura cleared a ball away with the goal gaping in one sequence; Alexandre Pato had two easy chances to score but hit tame shots straight at the keeper both times, Cedric Bakambu missed from a tight angle and another time could only find the keeper when it would have been easier to hit the net.
The second half began a bit like this too, with Pato missing an open goal and Bakambu fluffing an excellent chance. And the game seemed to turn with about 20 minutes left, when Cheryshev (who to be fair was showing signs of exhaustion, much less a kick in the face) came off for Castillejo, and Zurich brought on Rodriguez and Winter. Villarreal was firmly on the back foot now and a Rodriguez shot off the post with 8 minutes left showed the danger.
The tying goal was set up by nothing more than a long hopeful hoof forward that created chaos in our defense. Kone had the ball and was tripped by several players and the referee pointed to the spot. Asenjo guessed correctly but Rodriguez’s penalty was unstoppable.
Zurich felt they had a late winner, but Asenjo made a great save and Victor Ruiz was pulled down as everyone tried to get to the ball—one of the Zurich players put it in the net but the referee waved it off for the foul.
The question that has to be asked is how a team with the quality of ours let itself be manhandled by a team in the Swiss Second Division for the last thirty minutes or so of this match. Our substitutions—Rodri, Sansone and Samu—didn’t contribute anything and we no longer had attacking speed. Jonathan dos Santos had probably the worst match I’ve seen him have in a Villarreal shirt—our control of midfield was sorely lacking and a lot of it was down to his play, I’m afraid.
In the other match in the group, Steaua Bucharest scored late too and defeated Osmanlispor 2-1. That result means Osmanlispor are on seven points, Villarreal, Zurich and Steaua on six. If Villarreal defeat Steaua in El Madrigal, they qualify for the next round, either as group winners if Osmanlispor don’t beat Zurich, or as second-place finishers if they do.
If Villarreal lose at home, they are out, if they draw, then it depends on what happens in Turkey. So, it all comes down to jornada 6.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!