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Villarreal secure draw with Athletic Club despite wholesale changes

The Yellow Submarine fought back despite resting key men

Villarreal CF v Athletic Club - La Liga Santander
Pedraza fired home the leveller
Photo by Jose Miguel Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A much-changed Villarreal picked up a valuable point on Saturday at home to European rivals Athletic Club.

In usual circumstances, this was a game the Yellow Submarine would be expected to win, but ahead of this one, Unai Emery made 11 changes to rest players for Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter final second leg with Bayern Munich.

And so a point becomes a solid result, with Villarreal preventing Athletic club from leapfrogging them, and in doing so, they keep hold of a Europa League Conference spot for now.

There were chances aplenty early on, with Moi Gomez coming close and Unai Vencedor testing Sergio Asenjo.

Serge Aurier, who played out of position at centre-back, was lucky to get away with a handball in the box.

Villarreal CF v Athletic Club - La Liga Santander
Raul Garcia scored the opener
Photo by Jose Miguel Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But it didn’t matter too much, with Iker Muniain squaring the ball for Raul Garcia to finish off minutes later, in the 43rd minute.

Villarreal rallied after the break and put together a lovely move, with Manu Trigueros and Samuel Chukwueze combining with quick passes to put Alfonso Pedraza through on goal.

The left-back slotted home with a powerful low finish into the right bottom corner.

Substitute Arnaut Danjuma almost won it, only for Unai Simon to produce a fine save.

And after chances both ends, the two sides settled for a draw, leaving the European race wide open.

Villarreal may now lose ground on sixth place again this weekend, but they have to prioritise the Champions League having already established a first leg lead, and they will have time to make up ground, especially given they have to play sixth place Real Sociedad late in the campaign.