Villarreal made heavy work of it, but defeated Astana 3-1 in the first Europa league group match of the campaign.
The Yellows (well, our Yellows) took an early lead through Nicola Sansone, but Astana equalized early in the second half. Coach Escribá brought on Cedric Bakambu and Denis Cheryshev for Sansone and Fornals, and both subs promptly scored to give Villarreal the win.
So, three points gained (helpful), we get €360k for the win (nice), but—again—it seems to be less our collective team performance that got the job done than it did individual brilliance.
Rodri was excellent in midfield by all reports and as expected our midfield was generally fine, but the inability to keep a clean sheet against someone—anyone—is a problem. Semedo seems to still be finding himself, but regardless of who we’ve had in our back four, we haven’t seen the defensive quality that was present under Marcelino—or was present last year under Escribá, for that matter. Let’s hope it shows up.
Great that Chery returned after 6+ months off, greater still that he got a goal and we posted the victory. Easy to be critical, but let’s remember that.
Slavia Prague defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 in the other group match, so both home sides held serve in round 1.