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Sevilla 4, Villarreal 2: The Long and Winding Road

Sevilla took down Villarreal 4-2 at the Sánchez Pizjuán on Sunday afternoon in a La Liga battle of Champions League contenders. A Cedric Bakambu brace gave the visitors a halftime lead, but a Yevhen Konoplyanka screamer earned the hosts all 3 points.

Konoplyanka: That goal deserves it.
Konoplyanka: That goal deserves it.
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Great match for the neutral. Great match for La Liga. Great match for los nervionenses. But not the result that Villarreal fans were hoping for, particularly after leading at the break.

The fourth-place bulge is down to 5 points - and Sevilla owns the tiebreaker with a stoppage-time two-on-none. And Barcelona is next up at El Madrigal; admittedly Sevilla travels to the Bernabéu having not won away in the league all season.

Let's get the negatives out of the way:

  • Mario Gaspar is a vice-captain of the club and now has La Roja minutes and an international wonder goal for his incredible endeavor and improvement. But his flank was skinned time and again by Sevilla in spite of fellow wingback Antonio Rukavina's support. This exploitation led directly to the first Sevilla goal.
  • Víctor Ruiz has been the rock in central defense, with injuries and poor form affecting his colleagues at various points during the campaign. But he was left wanting on numerous occasions on Sunday, including a poor angle to track back on the first goal. And let's not mention the ugly own goal that levelled the match and fueled the Sánchez Pizjuán.
  • Leo Baptistao carried the team for weeks at a stretch this season; now he can't buy a goal. He was denied point-blank with a chance to kill off the Bayer Leverkusen tie on Thursday. Same story on Sunday at 3-2, with a miraculous double save from Sergio Rico and a Sevilla defender on the line.
  • Cedric Bakambu hit a scoring drought, but a double against Leverkusen has the Yellow Submarine with one foot in the Europa League quarterfinals. And he poached another brace on Sunday; the second was an absolute thing of beauty. But his easiest chance of the match at 3-2, having rounded a wild Sergio Rico, was denied by an outstretched Adil Rami.

Here are the positives:

  • Back to scoring ways. It's been over two months since Villarreal has tallied at least twice in consecutive matches. In this case, Cedric Bakambu has been the recipient of the goal-scoring accolades, but it's worth noting that he's been set up by four different players.
  • Five points ahead; nine matches remaining. Still a decent bulge - hard to have expected more at this point in the campaign. We'll look at the run-in in greater detail this week; just remember that Sevilla has not won away all season.
  • Two chances at the Champions League. If Villarreal takes care of business in Germany on Thursday evening, a Champions League group stage place will be only five matches away. With a bit of luck in the draw, the Europa League may prove the clearest path to the world's premier club competition. And closest league pursuers Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao also have European distractions to contend with.

Another huge week - Thursday in Germany; Sunday at El Madrigal. Endavant Villarreal!