Villarreal beat FC Salzburg 2-1 with a Gerard Moreno brace. The Submarine turned the game around against the dogged Austrian side, who did not give up and fought for their place in the last 16 until the final whistle. With a win, and a good performance, Unai Emery’s side booked their place in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. The Yellows will be in the draw tomorrow, where they will find out their next opponents in the continental competition.
As Emery said in the build-up to the game, Villarreal lined up with an experienced starting XI, full of respect for their opponents, and not taking any chances, despite the good result in the first leg on Austrian soil (0-2). It was clear that the Basque manager wanted to win once more to move into the Round of 16.
The game started evenly, with both teams respecting each other. In the opening quarter of an hour, neither the Yellows nor the Austrians had clear goalscoring opportunities.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Salzburg went ahead, making the most of an error from the Yellows playing the ball out from the back. Daka won the ball back in the box, playing it to Berisha, who scored easily from within the six-yard box.
The away goal was wake-up call for the Yellows, who did not lose focus, and continued to trust their game plan, trying to reach the opposition box.
In the 39th minute, Villarreal drew level on the night, with a fantastic move. Manu Trigueros broke forward with the ball, and his change of rhythm left a number of FC Salzburg players behind him. The midfielder played it into space for Paco Alcácer, who took his time and perfecty assisted Gerard. The Catalan striker cut back magnificently in the box, leaving the goalkeeper and a defender on the floor. The striker scored his first goal in the UEFA Europa League this season. A true work of art.
After the half-time break, the Yellows tried to dominate through possession, but found it hard to find the right formula to generate goalscoring chances.
In the 57th minute, the referee, after originally giving the away side a penalty for an Étienne Capoue handball, revised the action after going to the VAR screen, and correctly overturned his original decision.
As the minutes went on, the Submarine started to look comfortable through their dominance of the ball. They had long spells of possession in the opposition half, neutralising a Salzburg side who did not throw in the towel.
With 87 minutes on the clock, the referee gave Villarreal a penalty. Gerard won the ball just in front of the opposition goalkeeper, who ended up kicking the Catalan forward. The No.7 picked up the ball and beat the keeper himself, to secure victory for Villarreal.
Villarreal CF: Rulli; J. Costa (Foyth, m. 81), R. Albiol, Pau Torres, Estupiñán; Parejo (Álex B., m. 89), Capoue, M. Trigueros; Gerard (F. Niño, m. 89), Paco Alcácer (Chukwueze, m. 65), A. Pedraza (Moi Gómez, m. 65).
FC Salzburg: Stankovic; Kristensen (Svoboda, m. 90), Ramalho, Vallci (Wöber, m. 45), Ulmer; Mwepu, Junuzovic, Bernède (Sucic, m. 60), Aaronson (Adeyemi, m. 60), Daka (Solet, m. 90), Berisha.
Goals: 0-1. Min. 16: Berisha. 1-1. Min. 39: Gerard. 2-1. Min. 88: Gerard.
Referee: Felix Zwayer. Booked: J. Costa (Villarreal), Vallci, Mwepu, Daka, Adeyemi (FC Salzburg).
Matchday information: Game between Villarreal CF and FC Salzburg corresponding to the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.