Champions League 2008/09

Villarreal were to hear the Champions League anthem again in the 2008/09 season, thanks to a spectacular previous league campaign in which the Submarine finished in second place with 77 points. This meant that the Yellows skipped the play-off round and went straight into the Group stages, making it six consecutive seasons that Villarreal had been playing European football. The draw landed Villarreal in Group E, with Manchester United, Aalborg and Celtic. A tough test, but one that the Yellows would pass with flying colours.

Debut in the ‘Theatre of Dreams’

The Submarine’s debut in the competition was at no other than Old Trafford’s ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Villarreal did well to come away with a point, thanks to a goalless draw against the then reigning champions of the competition. Villarreal’s tactical organization and great changes made by Diego López meant Manchester United couldn’t get the win. The Yellows even had the chance to win the tie. In a superb play down the right wing, Ángel put a perfect cross into the box which found Guille Franco, who hit the post with his back-heeled effort. In the end both teams had to settle with a share of the points.

The second match in the Group stages saw Villarreal take on Celtic at El Madrigal. In a tie that will be remembered for the excellent relationship between both sets of fans off the pitch and Marcos Senna stealing the show on the pitch. A fine free kick from the Brazilian born Spaniard was enough to overcome the Scottish side and get the three points for the Yellows.

Highest scoring victory

The highest scoring victory for the Yellows came in the third match of the Group stages. El Madrigal witnessed a thrilling, end-to-end match between Villarreal and the Danish side Aalborg, which finished in a 6-3 win thanks to goals from Rossi, Capdevila, Pires, and a hat-trick from Joseba Llorente, who earnt the honour of being the first Yellow to score three goals in a European match.

The second match against the side from Denmark, played at the Aalborg stadium, finished in a 2-2 draw. Giuseppe Rossi put the Yellows ahead with a well placed finish just before half time, while Curth got the equalizer for Aalborg in the second half. Guille Franco put the Yellows in front again after controlling with his chest and firing home, however a great free kick from Due evened up the score line and that is how it stayed until the final whistle.

With eight points under their belt, Villarreal hosted Manchester United at El Madrigal. It was a very even match that again finished in a 0-0 draw and served the Submarine to qualify mathematically for the next round. The last match in the Group stages, against Celtic, was a mere formality and the Yellows lost 2-0, finishing in second place in Group E.

Glory in Greek hell

The draw for the Round of 16 paired Villarreal with Greek side Panathinaikos. The first leg, played in El Madrigal, finished in an undeserved draw, as the Submarine had countless goal scoring opportunities and the Greek side took advantage of one of their few chances to score through Karagounis. Rossi then equalized from the penalty spot as Pires was taken down in the box.

The second leg was played in ‘Greek hell’. Villarreal needed to win or at least draw by more than a goal to get through to the next round. The atmosphere was hellish, but the Submarine put in a top quality performance and ended up taking down Panathinaikos by 1-2, with goals from Ibagaza and Joseba Llorente. It was a historic night both in Athens and in Spain, where Yellows fans enjoyed another of their team’s televised victories.

Arsenal again

Arsenal were the opponents in the Quarter-finals. And the Gunners were the Yellows’ nemesis once again, finishing off the Subamrine’s hopes in the competition. Marcos Senna opened the scoring with a screamer from 25 yards out in the first leg at El Madrigal, but Adebayor, with an overhead kick, equalized for Arsenal in the second half and silenced the Yellows fans.

In the second leg, played at the Emirates stadium in London, the English side finished off the Submarine with a clear 3-0 win, knocking the Yellows out of the competition with goals from Walcot, Adebayor and Van Persie. Despite the defeat, Villarreal showed their quality in Europe once again.