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Into the round of 16 in a non-stop match (2-3)
Into the round of 16 in a non-stop match (2-3)

Villarreal win in France to claim top spot in Europa League Group F

Top of the group in Europe! Villarreal beat Stade Rennais (2-3) in France and booked a direct ticket to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League, thus avoiding playing the play-off round in February against the teams that dropped out of the Champions League group stage.

The team from Vila-Rral went into the final matchday in second place in Group F of the UEFA Europa League. After drawing 0-0 at home to Maccabi Haifa, the Submarine only needed a win in France to snatch top spot from Stade Rennais and avoid the play-off round against the teams that dropped out of the Champions League.

To play in Rennes, Marcelino chose to field an attacking starting eleven, with the presence of attacking players such as Alex Sorloth, Gerard Moreno, Álex Baena and Ilias Akhomach.

In the early stages of the match, the French side had the lion’s share of possession, circulating the ball in their opponents’ half. However, they were unable to create any dangerous chances. The Yellows kept their defensive structure tidy and looked to force Rennes to make mistakes in order to attack the spaces behind their defence.

The game picked up pace in the final stretch of the first half. In the 35th minute, Gerard Moreno gave Villarreal the lead with an unassailable goal from the penalty spot. The Catalan striker made no mistake from 12 yards after a penalty was awarded for Belocian’s clear stamp on Álex Baena.

Incomprehensibly, during the goal celebrations, the referee cautioned Gerard for his traditional celebration to the camera. This sparked the anger of the Yellows, who, as a result of the confusion, conceded the equaliser a few seconds later. Assignon made it 1-1 from kick-off. The Frenchman surprised everyone with a quick run behind the yellow defence. He arrived in the area with a precise control, cut back past his marker and beat Reina with a shot from a tight angle.

Five minutes before half-time, Álex Baena was fouled in the opposition box. The VAR called the referee to review the action and dispense justice. Incomprehensibly, there was no caution for Assignon and no penalty for Villarreal.

At the start of the second half, Villarreal came close to a second goal. Álex Baena was unsuccessful in a one-on-one with Mandanda. The player from Almeria received a fantastic pass from Dani Parejo in the box and tried to surprise the French goalkeeper with a lob, which hit the keeper’s body.

After the warning from the midfielder, the long-awaited goal finally arrived. Ilias Akhomach broke into space, led the ball on the counter-attack, and as he entered the box, he dribbled his way past Belocian before firing the ball into the back of the net with a cross-shot. Villarreal were briefly top of the group in France.

In the 79th minute, Blas made it 2-2 with a low shot from the edge of the box. Villarreal were second in the group… for a few seconds. Because the Submarine gave no respite. As Rennes had done in the first half, Marcelino’s men responded to the home side’s goal with a fantastic strike from Parejo, who finished with great skill after an excellent one-two with Álex Baena.

Assignon made it 3-3 with a last-gasp equaliser, but it was disallowed for an infringement by Le Fée in the build-up to the goal. With a bit of suspense at the end, the Submarine secured first place and a place in the last 16 of the Europa League.


Stade Rennais FC: Mandanda; Assignon, Wooh, Belocian, Theate; Bourigeaud (Blas, m. 55), Le Fée, Matic, Nagida; Yildirim, Terrier (Kalimuendo, m. 84).

Villarreal CF: Reina; Foyth (R. Terrats. m. 48), R. Albiol, Gabbia, A. Alti; I. Akhomach (Coquelin, m. 73), Capoue (J. Cuenca. m. 86), Parejo, Álex B.; Gerard (Brereton Díaz, m. 86), Sorloth (A. J. Morales, m. 73).

Goals: 0-1. Min. 36: Gerard. 1-1. Min. 37: Assignon. 1-2. Min. 63: I. Akhomach. 2-2. Min. 79: Blas. 2-3. Min. 81: Parejo.

Referee: Atilla Karaoglan. Booked: Wooh, Bourigeaud, Belocian, Mandanda (Stade Rennais); R. Albiol, Gerard, Parejo (Villarreal CF).

Matchday information: Match between Stade Rennais FC and Villarreal CF, corresponding to Matchday 6 of the UEFA Europa League group stage, at Roazhon Park.