Europa League 2015-2016
One step away from glory
On the doorstep once again. Villarreal came so close to playing in their first European Final in history after a spectacular run in the Europa League. Only the legendary Liverpool were capable of stopping the Submarine in their tracks, who were playing better than ever. After doing well in the Group stages, the Yellows picked off classic sides in European football one by one, before pitting their wits against the English side, five time European champions.
Second in Group E
Villarreal were drawn in Group E, along with Austrian’s Rapid Vienna, Czech side Viktoria Plzen and Dinamo Minsk from Belarus. Despite losing against all odds in their opening match (2-1 against Rapid Vienna), the Submarine soon got back on track going on a four game winning streak (1-0, Viktoria Plzen; 4-0, Dinamo Minsk; 1-2, Dinamo Minsk; 1-0, Rapid Vienna) and played for first place in the group in their last match, against Viktoria Plzen. Unfortunately, the Yellows drew (3-3) and gave up the top spot to Rapid Vienna, nevertheless they got their hands on their ticket to the Round of 32.
Villarreal fall in love with Europe
The first opponent in the knockout round was SSC Napoli, no less than one of the favourites to win the tournament. The Yellows took the advantage in the first leg with a great goal from Denis Suárez (1-0), but it was in the second leg in San Paolo that they finished off the job: 1-1 with a goal from Tomás Pina and a ticket to the next round. The Submarine was in full sail.
In the Round of 16, another of the big guns awaited Marcelino’s men. This time it was German side Bayer Leverkusen, who were sitting in third place in the Bundesliga. With an impressive display in the first leg (2-0) and showing the real meaning of competitiveness in the second (0-0) played at the Bay Arena, the Yellows got themselves through to the Quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The Quarter-final draw seemed to be somewhat more generous than usual, as Villarreal were paired with Sparta Prague. However, it soon became evident that the Czechs were there for a reason. The 2-1 win in the first leg at El Madrigal left the tie wide open, but Marcelino’s side were solid and took down the Czech’s 2-4 in Prague.
Bittersweet against Liverpool
Four teams left in the Europa League and, this time, the draw pitted the Submarine against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Villarreal put in an impressive first leg at El Madrigal with a goal from Adrián in the last minute that sent the place wild (1-0), but they knew Anfield would be a difficult place to go to. One week after that magical night in front of their home fans, the Submarine had to wave goodbye to the Final after conceding 3-0 at the home of the Reds, with a match full of controversial refereeing.
In spite of elimination at the final hurdle, the 2015/16 Europa League will be forever etched into fans’ minds due to some unforgettable moments: Pina’s goals against Napoli, Adrian’s goal against Liverpool, the great performance against Bayer Leverkusen and the 2,000 plus fans that travelled to Anfield to cheer on the Submarine, all of which are already written in the Villarreal CF history books.