Three weeks ago, Villarreal were basking in their biggest ever European achievement. They’d thumped Juventus 3-0 in Turin. Could they pull off another unlikely win? Mark Pulley was watching…
After (too) much research it seems that submarines don’t sail, swim or glide. In fact, it seems that no one can agree on how to describe a moving submarine. I doubt marching is correct, but let’s not let something so pedantic distract us from what happened yesterday on a truly memorable night at El Madrigal.
Rewind three weeks and Villarreal were basking in their biggest ever European achievement. They’d thumped Juventus 3-0 in Turin, thus booking themselves a place in the Champions League quarter-finals against German giants Bayern Munich. Even after beating the Italian ‘Old Lady’ so comprehensively, you’d have struggled to find anyone who’d give them a chance against the might of Lewandowski and Co. Well, anyone not wearing yellow that is. The fans and the team certainly showed us that they weren’t lacking belief from the first minute of the game.
Villarreal start like a train
Backed by their boisterous crowd, Villarreal started the game with confidence and aggression. They didn’t let Bayern settle and deservedly took the lead in the eighth minute. Former Bournemouth winger Arnaut Danjuma reacted quickly to divert Daniel Parejo’s shot into the net. The crowd already at full volume managed to turn it up to 11 to show their appreciation. Bayern were rocked and the home side kept pushing, not content with taking a surprise lead and sitting back, they could smell blood.
Just before half-time it seemed that they’d deservedly doubled their lead, albeit fortunately. Francis Coquelin’s cross had sailed over Manuel Neuer’s head into the net. The stadium erupted, the boys in yellow celebrated while Bayern trudged back into position for kick off. Then VAR stuck its nose in. Coquelin had strayed a yard offside and the goal was rightly chalked off. Villarreal would have to take a single goal lead into half time.
Half time, Villarreal vs Bayern Munich, 1-0 to the hosts
Unsurprisingly, Bayern started the second half with a bit more purpose and came close soon after the restart when Sane’s cross nearly found Muller a few yards out. After that scare, Villarreal got back into their groove and Gerard Moreno could’ve helped himself to a second half hat-trick. He smashed the post from 20 yards out, then only some brilliant defending stopped him tapping home from six yards. Then he nearly scored from ten yards inside his own half after Neuer had unforgivingly passed the ball to him while meandering near the halfway line. Moreno’s 65-yard shot was in the air for an eternity, but Neuer’s blushes were spared when the ball curled away and out for a goal kick at the last moment.
There was even time for Villarreal to miss another great chance in the 87th minute. Giovanni Lo Celso, who was deservedly named man of the match for his all action display, played a clever reverse pass for Alfonso Pedraza to run on to 12 yards from goal. But he only managed to slice it high and wide with the outside of his left boot, reminding me of most of my Sunday morning attempts with my left peg while doing so. Mine was definitely made for standing, the right was for swinging.
Did they need more?
It was the last chance of the night and Villarreal claimed the win only they thought they could get. Strangely though they weren’t joyous at the final whistle. You could sense that they were left ruing the chances they had missed to possibly put the tie to bed. Although even a 3-0 victory would still have had most people thinking Bayen could overturn it in Munich. The bookies currently have The Germans clear favourites to progress to the semis. But that’s okay, The Yellow Submarine seems to be enjoying the underdog tag so far.
Let’s hope it continues as they march, swim or sail into the Allianz Arena next Tuesday at 9pm for the Villarreal vs Bayern Munich second leg.
• As well as covering football and helping edit ‘Valencia Life’, Mark Pulley also writes especially about travel – with a focus on Valencia – at thesketchytraveller.com
Keep up to date with news in Valencia HERE.