It was not a match you could enjoy if you have a weak heart! Villarreal qualified for the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 in a game where they had to draw level after the opening strike from Sporting Clube de Portugal to progress in the competition. The 0-1 result the Yellow Submarine obtained in the first leg gave them an advantage, but it was far from easy.
Sporting Clube de Portugal went ahead with a goal from Bruno Fernandes just before half-time. After the break, the Portuguese side were left with a men less and the Yellows dominated the game, eventually culminating in the decisive goal from Pablo Fornals.
Javi Calleja made eight changes from the starting XI who beat Sevilla in LaLiga. It is also worth pointing out that a total of seven of the starting XI against the side from Lisbon were from the Yellows Academy.
The first half was relatively equal, without many chances. The Yellows had two. One was a strong right-footed shot from Fornals, that was deflected just off-target, and another was a great header from Ramiro Funes Mori after a Manu Trigueros corner. None of them ended in a goal.
It was in fact Sporting Clube de Portugal who found the back of the net, just before the break. Their captain, Fernandes, robbed the ball in the middle of the pitch and found himself one-on-one with Andrés Fernandez, beating him with a placed shot (0-1). It was only seconds before the half-time whistle.
The start of the second half saw the side from Lisbon end up with a man less. Right wing-back Jefferson saw a second yellow for a stamp on Miguelón (m.49). With a man more on the pitch, Villarreal's dominance intensified.
Calleja looked to his bench, bringing on Karl Toko Ekambi and Vicente Iborra. The Yellows needed a goal to avoid extra-time and get through to the last 16.
The head coach also brought on Santi Cazorla, looking for that piece of magic to break down the packed Portuguese defence. It was all-out attack.
It was from that man himself, Cazorla, where a great chance for Alfonso Pedraza came. The wing-back made a great piece of control, getting free in the area, but his shot was pushed just wide when the stands at the Estádio de la Cerámica were already cheering a goal.
The Yellows ground erupted in joy moments later. Toko Ekambi got the ball on the edge of the area, and centred it for Fornals to connect with a bullet of a right-footed shot that Romain Salin could do nothing about (1-1, m.79).
Sporting, who previously were trenched in, had to push forward, and Villarreal had more space to attack. Iborra was close after a header from a Gerard cross. It went just over the bar.
Cazorla did not stop creating. He made another great long ball for Gerard to play it low across goal for Toko Ekambi. The Yellows No.17's effort was kept out by a great Salin save.
The Portuguese side also had their own chance to score late on. Dutch striker Bas Dost sent it wide.
The Round of 16 draw, this Friday at 1pm CET in Nyon
Villarreal will be in the draw for the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League this Friday in Nyon (Switzerland) at 1pm CET.
Villarreal CF: Andrés; Mario, Funes Mori, Víctor Ruiz; Miguelón (Cazorla, m. 70), Trigueros, Javi Fuego (Iborra, m. 62), Fornals, Pedraza; Raba (Toko Ekambi, m. 57), Gerard.
Sporting Clube de Portugal: Salin; Ristovski (Phellype, m. 82), Tiago Ilori, Coates, Cristian Borja, Jefferson; Gudelj, Wendel, Bruno Fernandes, Diaby (Raphinha, m. 76); Dost.
Goals: 0-1. Min. 44: Bruno Fernandes. 1-1. Min. 79: Fornals.
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (CZE). Booked: Gerard (Villarreal); Bruno Fernandes and Tiago Ilori (Sporting Clube de Portugal). Sent off: Jefferson (m. 49)
Matchday information: Match corresponding to the second leg of the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie at the Estadio de la Cerámica in front of an attendance of 14,098.