Champions League 2005/06

After finishing in the top four, Villarreal won the right to start dreaming about their first adventure in the Champions League in 2005/06, the most important club competition on the planet. And the Submarine went on a journey that caused a stir in Europe and throughout the world: easily beating English side Everton in their Qualifying play-off match, then leading their group in the Group stages and passing the hurdles one by one until, with what was very bad luck, they were stopped in the Semi-finals by an Arsenal side who were made to suffer to the end to get to the Final of the competition. The Yellows made their debut in the world’s biggest competition in style, against no less than Manchester United on 14th September 2005. It was a very even game that finished in a 0-0 draw and the Submarine made their intentions clear.

Villarreal’s first victory in the Champions League came on Match Day 4 in the Group stages, with the Submarine playing in Group D. The Yellows visited the Da Luz stadium and beat Benfica 0-1, with a wonder goal by Marcos Senna from about 25 yards out. A key result to finish the initial phase in first place with 10 points, two games won and four drawn. Villarreal were already among the 16 best teams in Europe in their first time participating in the Champions League. A success that wouldn’t finish there – and far from it.

The Yellows went up against Glasgow Rangers in the Round of 16. The Scottish side, one of Europe’s classics, hosted the Submarine on 22nd February 2006. Riquelme, from the penalty spot, and Diego Forlán were the goal scorers for the Yellows, who went away with a valuable 2-2 draw. The second leg at El Madrigal finished in a 1-1 draw, enough to take the Submarine through to the Quarter-finals. Arruabarrena, with his goal, was already beginning to establish himself as the team’s hero in the Champions League. Inter Milan, one of the strongest teams in Europe, waited for Villarreal in the Quarter-finals. The Submarine showed their quality again and weren’t discouraged at the Giussepe Meazza stadium after a creditable 2-1 loss, with a goal from Forlán in the opening minutes of the first leg.

Tuesday 4th April was the day that one of the most legendary matches in Villarreal’s recent history was played at El Madrigal. Inter visited the home of the Yellows with a small advantage on aggregate, but the Basque native Arruabarrena wiped that away with a well placed header in the 58th minute. It was a magical night in El Madrigal as the team qualified for the Semi-finals.

Arsenal were all that stood in the way of the Submarine on the road to the grand Final. Villarreal came up just short at Highbury, thus resting all their hopes on the second leg at El Madrigal. After an exciting match which Villarreal deserved to get more out of, missing a penalty in the last few minutes, the Submarine were knocked out of the competition.