Villarreal took out one of the Europa League favorites, SSC Napoli, with a 1-1 draw in their stadium to progress 2-1 on aggregate. The Submarine dominated the first fifteen minutes and had a chance to score but Cedric Bakambu, in one-on-one against Pepe Reina, had his shot pushed away by the ex-Villarreal keeper. And with only 17 minutes gone Marek Hamsik, who had scored Napoli's first goals against us both other times we met them in Europe, did the same again. A high ball in search of Higuain was cleared by Victor Ruiz straight to Hamsik at the top of the box, and he struck a hard, low shot past Alphonse Areola.
Napoli nearly scored again in a similar fashion a few minutes later, but this time the shot was high and wide. Napoli dominated possession, Villarreal hardly had the ball, but while Mertens and Insigne were constantly getting into space, the final product was lacking. Musacchio had to clear a shot off the outside of the post just before the half, and you felt that if Napoli could get a second before the break it would all be over, but they didn't.
HT Napoli 1-0 Villarreal
Whatever Marcelino said to his troops at halftime, it seemed to work, because after almost total domination by Napoli in the final 30 minutes of the first half, this was more even. Villarreal seemed content to let Napoli have the ball and try to counterattack when they could. For all his gaudy goal-scoring stats in Serie A, Higuain was hardly in evidence, though he did blast a good chance over with only Areola to beat.
As the hour mark approached, Villarreal had a great chance, but Pepe Reina cleared the ball off Bakambu's boot after a good cross from Rukavina. And from the resulting corner, Villarreal scored, Denis Suarez knocking the ball to Tomas Pina whose attempted cross (it wasn't a shot, was it??) from the edge of the box beat Reina and went into the far corner of the net.
Napoli forced two fine saves from Alphonse Areola after that, but in the last fifteen minutes Villarreal were content to let them pass the ball around the edge of the box--Napoli had a 90% pass success rate and 70% possession on the day--and shoot high and wide when they chose. Napoli had 22 shots, 6 on target, to 6 total shots, 2 on target, for Villarreal.
It wasn't pretty, but as the clock wound down it was pretty obvious Napoli were exhausted and disappointed. Marcelino had brought on Adrian, Trigueros and Castillejo to try and get a second goal on the break, but though that didn't happen they were able to provide enough of an outlet so the pressure was relieved.
FT Napoli 1-1 Villarreal (Villarreal progress 2-1 on aggregate).
A tremendous win, and with it, Villarreal are one of four Spanish clubs in the last 16. I am not sure if the draw rules say teams from the same country can't meet in the round of 16, so we have a good chance of facing an English side then I guess, with Man Utd, Liverpool and Spurs in the draw, plus possibly one of the three other Spanish sides. The draw is tomorrow.
To be honest I don't know how far this team will go without finding some offense, but Musacchio, Bruno, Areola.....defense was outstanding, and that can carry you a long way. And Tomas Pina has now etched himself into Villarreal's "European Heroes" book! ENDAVANT!!
Highlights are here: