Villarreal “don’t ‘alf make it ‘ard” sometimes. Despite outplaying Sporting in the first half, they had nothing to show for it—and just before halftime, Funes Mori’s heavy touch on an innocuous pass to him in the center circle let Bruno Fernandes motor forward, and he showed his finishing skills and fired a right-footed shot home past the diving Andrés.
In the 50th minute, already-booked Jefferson intentionally trod on the sliding Miguelón, who had cleared the ball already, and was sent off, to heavy protests from the Sporting bench and players.
By the 70th minute Villarreal had substituted Raba, Javi Fuego and Miguelon in favor of Toko Ekambi, Iborra and Santi Cazorla, and the 3-5-2 had gone to a 4-4-2, though )really it was more like a 2-3-5 as Santi and the two fullbacks controlled play outside Sporting’s area. In the 80th minute Santi’s diagonal pass to Toko Ekambi created space for Fornals who scored the equalizer. Funes Mori seemed the most relieved—and delighted—player on the pitch!
Two minutes later the tie should have been put to bed, but Gerard’s fine run and cross was headed over the gaping goal by Vicente Iborra. Three minutes after that Gerard fed Toko Ekambi but he managed to find the diving keeper with a shot he should have put away (well, it’s easy watching thousands of miles away!!).
Four minutes of injury time, and Gerard had a shot saved, now Sporting threw everyone forward and managed to control the ball in the attacking third. You just knew they would have one last chance to score—and they did—with a cross to Bas Dost at the far post. It was a little too deep and he could only strike it harmlessly into the stand. Villarreal comfortably cleared the last high ball into the area, and it was over.
20 shots on goal for us to 6 for Sporting, but Salin in goal and Coates in the centre of their defense were the standouts. But apart from the one error that led to their goal we looked pretty good—though being a man up for most of the second half, you’d expect that.
The draw for the Round of 16 will be tomorrow and the next matches are March 7 and 14. And yes, we can play another Spanish team—Sevilla and Valencia are already in the draw.