Villarreal draw against Espanyol in the first leg of their round-of-16 Copa del Rey tie (2-2) in a match in which they were losing by two goals until the final minutes. The Catalan side took the lead through Sergi Darder and Aléx López made it two for the visitors in the second half, but in the final moments Karl Toko Ekambi and Carlos Bacca both headed home from close range to keep the Yellows hopes alive. All will be decided at the RCDE Stadium (Thursday 17th January, 8:30pm CET).
Luis García changed his starting lineup due to the first team’s demanding schedule. Espanyol went ahead in the first quarter of an hour of play. Darder hit a powerful right-footed strike across goal that beat Andrés Fernández at his far post (0-1). Unstoppable.
The Submarine tried to equalise before the break, but they narrowly missed out. First a header by Álvaro and shortly after an onslaught by Alfonso Pedraza, but on both occasions Roberto kept the Yellows at bay.
The Yellows had the ball in the back of the net, but it was disallowed. Toko Ekambi was in an offside position when he directed the ball into the back of the net from a powerful Pedraza strike. Espanyol also had a chance to extend their lead with a header by Roberto Rosales but Fernández made a fine save to stall the visitors.
Villarreal carried on trying in the second half. One of their best chances came in the 62nd minute, thanks to great piece of team play that saw Dani Raba leave an Espanyol player on the floor after a great bit of skill. It was only very narrowly not a goal.
Vicente Iborra's debut
With 66 minutes on the clock, one of the great news stories of the game took place. Vicente Iborra debuted in Villarreal colours, replacing Santi Cáseres. Three minutes later, the Yellows had another chance. Pablo Fornals stole the ball, drove until the edge of the area and played it across to Bacca, who was unable to fire past Roberto.
The goal to make it 0-2 arrived in the 70th minute. López controlled the ball with his chest in the box, before unveiling a rocket of a shot that flew past Fernández. All seemed lost but Toko Ekambi gave the Yellows hope. Alfonso Pedraza crossed the ball in from the left, and the Cameroon international headed home from the centre of the box. The match was on, as was the knockout tie! Even more so when Bacca made it 2-2 after a Miguelón cross.
The next Villarreal match will be this Saturday against Getafe at the Estadio de la Cerámica (8:45pm CET).
Villarreal CF: Andrés; Layún, Bonera, Álvaro, Jaume Costa (Miguelón, m. 83); Raba (Fornals, m. 69), Cáseres (Iborra, m. 66), Trigueros, Pedraza; Bacca, Toko Ekambi.
RCD Espanyol: Roberto; Rosales, David López, Duarte, Pedrosa; Hernán Pérez (Víctor Sánchez, m. 79), Darder, Álex López, Granero (Marc Roca, m. 66); Piatti, Borja Iglesias (Puado, m. 71).
Goals: 0-1. Min. 14: Darder. 0-2. Min. 70: Álex López. 1-2. Min. 84: Toko Ekambi. 2-2. Min. 88: Bacca.
Referee: Munuera Montero. Booked: Jaume Costa, Cáseres, Raba (Villarreal); Marc Roca (Espanyol).
Matchday information: Match corresponding to the first leg of the round-of-16 Copa del Rey tie at the Estadio de la Cerámica in front of an attendance of 12,207.