Villarreal picked up a hard fought point in their second match in the Group stage of the UEFA Europa League against Steaua Bucharest (1-1) and go top of Group L with four points earned from a possible six, taking advantage of Osmanlispor’s defeat to Zürich (2-1).
It was not the best performance by the Yellows, who had to sit back and complete their defensive duty to get the draw. The state of the pitch at the National Arena in Bucharest was questionable and did not favour the spectacle. With this result, Villarreal go eight games undefeated since the start of the season, six in the league and two in the UEFA Europa League.
The Submarine went ahead in their first chance of the match. Colombian striker Santos Borré was through on goal after a Bruno through ball, he got away from his defender and hit a great shot underneath Steaua goalkeeper Nita with the outside of his boot. An exquisite finish. It was in the 9th minute and so the match could not have started better for Fran Escribá’s side.
The Yellows were well positioned and nobody expected a Steaua equalizer. Then a corner kick for the Romanian side turned into a loose ball in the box and Sulley got onto the end of it for the locals (1-1). An unexpected twist.
The second half started with a scare. In the 47th minute the ball fell to William who hit a spectacular long range shot from the edge of the area that rung off the crossbar. As the game went on Fran Escribá looked for the solution by bringing on players off the bench, with half anhour to go Castillejo replaced Pato and Jonathan moved up to play behind Santos Borré.
The best news of the night was the return of Cédric Bakambu, who replaced Santos Borré in the 82nd minute. The French-Congolese striker had not played since the Real Sociedad match in preseason due to injury. Next up for Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League is Turkish side Osmanlispor away from home (Thursday, 20th October).
Steaua de Bucarest: Nita; Tamaș, Tosca, Moke, Momcilovic; Bourceanu, Sulley; Popa (Jakolis, m. 76), Boldrin, William (Popescu, m. 89); and Golubovic (Tanase, m. 77).
Villarreal CF: Andrés; Rukavina, Musacchio, Bonera, José Ángel; N'Diaye, Bruno, Jonathan dos Santos, Cheryshev (Soriano, m. 72); Pato (Castillejo, m. 62) and Santos Borré (Bakambu, m. 82).
Goals: 0-1. Min. 9: Santos Borré. 1-1. Min. 19: Sulley.
Referee: Yevhen Aranovskiy (UKR). Cautioned: Santos Borré, Rukavina and N'Diaye.
Stadiun: National Arena.