Villarreal secure a vital win over Maccabi Haifa thanks to goals from Baena and Sorloth
Villarreal achieved a very important victory against Maccabi Haifa thanks to goals from Baena and Sorloth. It was a comeback based on faith, as the Israeli side took the lead with a goal from Seck (1-2). The Yellows had plenty of chances, including from the penalty spot.
The match was played behind closed doors at the AEK Arena in Larnaca (Cyprus) due to the current situation in Israel. With no spectators in the stands, both teams fought from the first minute for three very important points in the fourth round of the UEFA Europa League group stage.
The Submarine started the match very focused, monopolising possession. With many changes to the starting XI, the Yellows were looking for a goal. Anglo-Chilean Ben Brereton Diaz had two chances (one of them a clear-cut one), while Manu Trigueros tried his luck with a long-range left-footed shot.
Maccabi Haifa took the lead from a set piece. Seck shot in at the far post and the goal was added to the scoreboard after a VAR review. He was narrowly offside (1-0, m.29).
The game started to get complicated. The Submarine could have made amends before the break with a penalty awarded for a challenge on Brereton Diaz. Sorloth took the responsibility, but Keouf pulled off a superb save to keep out the spot-kick. The spot-kick had to be retaken because a Maccabi Haifa player entered the box early. The second attempt from the spot fell to Manu Trigueros. The captain also came up against another superb save from the goalkeeper.
Pacheta’s team deserved the goal, but it didn’t come. Sorloth could have levelled the score with two more clear chances. Nothing. It seemed unbelievable.
The coach from Burgos made an attacking change after half-time, bringing on academy product Jorge Pascual for Santi Comesaña. A forward for a midfielder.
The Yellows’ dominance intensified. The chances came and went without finding the net to the despair of the Submarine.
Pacheta continued to shake the tree in search of a comeback. Parejo, Baena and Yeremy came on. Mandi had a chance with a header from a corner. Again Kerouf saved.
Álex Baena received a brilliant pass from Alberto Moreno and finally beat Keouf with a right-footed shot from inside the area (1-1). Almost immediately afterwards came another very similar chance, although this time Baena’s shot went wide.
The score was 2-1 in the 86th minute. Alberto Moreno’s shot was deflected by Keouf and Sorloth pounced on the rebound to score the all-important winner.
Villarreal’s next game will be against Atlético de Madrid at the Cívitas Metropolitano stadium (Sunday, 9pm CET).
Maccabi Haifa: Keouf; Sundgren, Seck, Simic, Comud; Mohamed, Cafumana (Naor, m. 87), Refaelov (Jaber, m. 75); Khalaili, Pierrot (David, m. 65), Hagag (Podgoreanu, m. 75).
Villarreal CF: Reina; Altimira, Gabbia, Mandi, Alberto Moreno; I. Akhomach (Yeremy, m. 65), Terrats (Baena, m. 65), Comesaña (Jorge Pascual, m. 46), M. Trigueros (Capoue, m. 78), Brereton Díaz (Parejo, m. 65); Sorloth.
Goals: 1-0. Min. 29: Seck. 1-1. Mn. 81: Baena. 1-2. Min. 86: Sorloth.
Referee: Mykola Balakin (Ukraine). Booked: Simic, Refaelov, Cafumana (Maccabi Haifa); Sorloth, Altimira, Alberto Moreno (Villarreal)
Matchday information: Match corresponding to Matchday 4 of the UEFA Europa League Group Stage behind closed doors in teh AEK Arena in Larnaca (Cyprus).