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Pepe Reina heroics see Villarreal secure statement Europa League win to end Stade-Rennais’ unbeaten start

A Sørloth rocket and Pepe Reina heroics secure the three points!

Villarreal CF v Stade Rennais FC: Group F - UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

Villarreal desperately needed something from this game after a disappointing start in Europe away at Panathinaikos. It took grit, determination, and formidable mental strength, but the Yellow Submarine finally delivered this Thursday evening.

In comparison to Villarreal’s Europa League opener, Pacheta decided to field less of a rotated side, employing the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with Capoue and Parejo as the two sitting in front of the defence, a shape that Villarreal fans have become so accustomed to over the last few seasons.

The Yellow Submarine started well, establishing dominance on the ball early on and frequently breaking into the final third with relative ease. However, as Panathinaikos did during the inaugural match-day, Rennes were breaking with intent, creating many clear chances throughout the first half an hour.

Sørloth was the danger man, causing many problems for the opposing defence, holding the ball up well, sending passes through to the pace out wide, and occasionally popping shots from distance.

The Norweigan had a golden opportunity to open the scoring around the twenty-minute mark when he found himself chasing a long ball over the top, but his shot was emphatically equalled by Mandanda in between the sticks.

It didn’t take long for Sørloth to redeem himself though, as another long ball came over the top and wasn’t dealt with well by the Rennes defence. The Viking took the ball down around 25 yards out from goal and thumped the ball into the corner of the net with incomprehensible power.

After the break, Rennes stepped up their game and put the Yellow Submarine under immense pressure. Many cards started flying around as Villarreal attempted to weather the storm, as Baena let his frustration let his frustration get the better of him once again. He only received a yellow, but Pacheta swiftly subbed him off and the youngster stormed off down the tunnel in response.

There was a penalty scare for Villarreal with 15 minutes to go as Arnaud Kalimuendo bumped into Pepe Reina shortly after shooting into the stands, but the referee decided otherwise at the monitor.

Villarreal fans would have their hearts in their mouths once again 10 minutes later as Alfonso Pedraza was involved in a scramble in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. The subsequent VAR check took over five minutes and the penalty went ahead, only for Pepe Reina to pull off an outstanding save. Terrier would put the ensuing rebound wide, securing the three points for the Yellow Submarine. This would only garnish Reina’s evening, as he became the Spanish player with the most European appearances with his start against Rennes.