Villarreal began their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 win over Zurich at El Madrigal. It did not begin well for Villarreal, as Armando Sadiku blasted a goal from outside the box in the second minute while a lot of the home crowd was still settling in.
After that it was pretty much all Villarreal in the first half, though, since the pivote of Bruno and N’diaye was primarily defensive, it fell to Denis Cheryshev and Jonathan dos Santos to create something in midfield. After coming close, Alexandre Pato equalized the score in the 28th minute.
Pato pato @AlexandrePato 1-1 pic.twitter.com/a73oZYlzNG— Juan Pablo Sorin (@jpsorin6) September 15, 2016
then just before halftime he and Jonathan dos Santos collaborated on a nice give-and-go, the Mexican burying the shot past Vanins.
Go-la-zo #DosSantos desp de pared(es) con @AlexandrePato ( Q control! ) Gana El @VillarrealCF 2-1 FCZurich pic.twitter.com/nfOhLKNYak— Juan Pablo Sorin (@jpsorin6) September 15, 2016
HT Villarreal 2-1 Zurich
Not sure what happened exactly, but after a pretty good first 10-15 minutes, Villarreal got really sloppy and let Zurich back into the match a bit. Santos Borré, who was pretty anonymous, did have a nice blast of a free-kick through ball from Bruno, but Vanins got to it.
Sansone, who came on for him, had the ball in the net later but was offside; Samu Castillejo, who replaced dos Santos, had some nice skills but his shot was blocked for a corner, various through balls didn’t quite work as Zurich pressed for an equalizer.
However, the Villarreal defense was pretty robust. Alvaro Gonzalez had a good match partnering Victor Ruiz in the middle of the back line, and N’Diaye and friends in midfield were happy to keep things under control. Zurich picked up four yellow cards for their troubles (five on the night) but one great strike from outside the box was all they had to show for their efforts on the evening.
FT Villarreal 2-1 Zurich
Osmanlispor defeated Steaua Bucharest 2-0 in the other group match, scoring both their goals after a Steaua defender was sent off. We travel to Budapest in two weeks time.
Overall, then, a good chance to rest some starters, get our returning wingers a start and some prolonged match time, and hopefully no injuries (Jonathan dos Santos seemed to stretch something awkwardly but also seemed to signal he was fine). We still look like a team that is figuring out how to play together up front, but the signs are promising.