Villarreal made a worrying start to their return to the Europa League with an unexpected 2-0 loss away in Athens.
The first word that comes to mind after watching Thursday night's performance? Lethargic. It would be a difficult task to pin down a worse showing than that from the Yellow Submarine in recent years. The worst part about it, though, is the fact that Villarreal were genuinely flattered by the scoreline, as the home side had four or five clear chances at the end of the second half, even after the points had already been claimed.
A rotated lineup was fielded by Pacheta as he oversaw his first continental fixture, giving starts to the likes of Brereton-Díaz, Reina, Morales, Femenía and Trigueros. The first half didn’t start particularly poorly as Villarreal were combining well on the transition, but were lacking the final touch to grab the opener.
The Greek outfit surrendered the ball often but won the ball back well and looked potent going forward, which was a strategy that paid off by the end of the half as Giannis Kotsiras was able to seamlessly stroll beyond an uncharacteristically sluggish Capoue and send Fotis Ioannidis through on goal, who finished superbly.
Seemingly heads dropped after the first goal. As Panathinaikos found themselves creating more and more chances as the game progressed. Pacheta sent on the calvary at the hour mark, sending Gerard, Yeremy, Sørloth, Parejo and Baena onto the pitch in an attempt to rescue something from the game, but it was to no avail.
The points were sealed by The Shamrock when Andraz Sporar came off the bench and directed an accurate strike into the bottom corner from outside the box. As already mentioned, the home side could’ve scored more and more from that moment onwards.
Pacheta would have been glad to hear the full-time whistle, as that performance was certainly difficult to watch. Much needs to be done on the training ground before Villarreal travel to Vallecas on Sunday.