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Villarreal find the winning touch

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And take a 1-0 lead home in the Europa League round of 32.

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Villarreal picked up its first win in any competition since December in Lisbon today—an early goal from Alfonso Pedraza was the only tally in the first leg of the Round of 32 playoff match.

Sporting responded to going behind in the third minute with some impressive attempts to win free-kicks down our right flank. Acuña was booked for his attempt to con the referee or for his voluble protests (which turned out to be important when he got a second yellow late on).

Villarreal didn’t produce much of anything in the remainder of the half, but Sporting didn’t either. It looked a lot like two teams that were playing with about half of their regulars, which is in fact what it was.

The second half began with two chances for the Submarine to put the game away: first Sporting keeper Salin got in a mess with his punch of a cross, but the ball bounced off Carlos Bacca’s back and out of play; then a high Mario Gaspar cross almost fell to Pedraza but bounced to Fornals, whose snatched shot was blocked by Salin’s arm.

Sporting’s best chances to equalize came on 68 minutes with a fine piece of ball control by Raphinha, who turned Mario Gaspar inside out. His cross was flicked goalward by Dost but Andrés Fernandez was there to make a fine save. Six minutes later, Raphinha flicked a shot off the near post from a Bruno Fernandes corner. A minute later, Acuña went in clumsily on Dani Raba and got his second yellow, so Sporting were down to 10.

Villarreal didn’t do very much with the man advantage, but they didn’t have to, and the five minutes of extra time (which stretched to almost seven) featured three yellow cards but not much else.

Villarreal didn’t produce many chances, but the defense was equal to today’s opponent.

MOM: Alfonso Pedraza.