Europa League 2010/11

Only one step away from glory. Villarreal CF were on the brink of making it to their first European Final after an extraordinary performance in the Europa League. Only FC Porto, who would go on to win the tournament, were capable of defeating the Yellows in the Semi-finals. It was a bad second half in the first leg of the tie played at the Estádio do Dragao (5-1) that left too big a deficit for the Yellows to make up at El Madrigal a week later (3-2).

First in Group D

After easily passing the Qualifying play-off round against Belarus side Dnepr Mogilev (5-0 and 1-2), the Yellows finished first in Group D, that consisted of Belgian side Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb from Croatia and the Greek’s PAOK. The first match against Dinamo Zagreb finished in a defeat (2-0), but the Submarine bounced back by winning the following two matches at El Madrigal against Club Brugge (2-1) and PAOK (1-0). In the second round of matches, the Yellows lost in Greece, but were able to beat Dinamo at El Madrigal (3-0) and secure their place in the Europa League Round of 32. In the last match of the Group stages, Villarreal CF won in Belgium against Club Brugge (1-2) and finished on top of Group D.

Three unforgettable matches

Villarreal CF had to get past three strong opponents to get to the Europa League Semi-finals: Napoli, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Twente. The Italians were first to measure up against Garrido’s side, drawing at the Stadio San Paolo (0-0) and losing at El Madrigal (2-1). At that time, Napoli were second in Serie A and entertaining Europe with their style of play. However, the Submarine put an end to their good run by breaking down their solid defence with goals from Nilmar and Rossi in front of Yellows fans.

Then it was on to the Round of 16, where Villarreal CF ran into Bayer 04 Leverkusen, strangely another second placed team from another of the greatest European leagues, this time the German Bundesliga. The first leg in the BayArena finished 2-3 in favour of the Submarine, who were able to come from behind twice to defeat the German side, with a last minute goal by Nilmar from a lethal counterattack. An unforgettable goal. In the second leg at El Madrigal, the Yellows won again (2-1) securing their place in the Quarter-finals.

And it was there that leaders of the Dutch Eredivise league, Twente, awaited Villarreal. The first leg was played at the home of the Yellows and the result could not have been better for the Submarine, as they thrashed their opponents 5-1. Gonzalo Rodríguez’s serious injury put a downer on the fairytale though, after a brutal tackle by Janko in the final minutes of the game. On Dutch soil, Garrido’s side won again, this time 1-3 with great contribution from the Yellow Reserve team players.

The champions cross their path

Villarreal were only one step away from reaching their first European Final, but they crossed paths with the team that would go on to win the Europa League- FC Porto. After winning their league, under manager André Villas-Boas, they beat the Yellows 5-1 at the Estádio do Dragao. Villarreal CF took the lead with a header by Cani, but Porto reacted and punished the Yellows hard in what was a bad second half for the Submarine.

Despite it being an extremely difficult job, Villarreal CF attempted to turn the tie around in the second leg and even beat Porto 3-2, but it was not enough to take them through. In a match where the coming together of both teams and their supporters was perfect, it was a goodbye to Villarreal, but a goodbye with their heads held high.