Villarreal got a point against Athletic Club in a hard-fought match by Unai Emery’s men at San Mamés. The Yellows went ahead thanks to a great Gerard Moreno goal, but the Basque side euqualised through Álex Berenguer just before the half-time break.
The Yellows started with a similar time to that which won in Austria in midweek. Emery made only three changes to that starting XI, bringing in Sergio Asenjo, Alfonso Pedraza and Juan Foyth. The Argentine slotted in at right-back.
The Submarine looked to control the game in the first half. Two long-range efforts from Athletic warned the Yellows, but the first goal of the game went to the visitors.
It was 0-1 on the scoreboard with a quarter of an hour played. Pedraza turned into Diego Maradona, running from his own half, beating a number of players. Only Íñigo Martínez was able to get the ball off him. It fell to the feet of Gerard, whose unstoppable left-footed effort flew into the bottom corner of Unai Simón’s goal (m.15).
Villarreal took control of the ball, while Athletic pressed high, trying to win the ball back and trouble the goal defended by Asenjo. The Basque side drew level just before half-time. Yuri Berchiche’s low cross from the left was touched lightly by Raúl Albiol. That touch saw it fall at the back post, where Berenguer was able to push it into the back of the net (1-1, m.43).
The match did not change in style in the second half. Villarreal moved the ball around, but struggled to créate danger. Athletic pressed high, trying to capitalise on a possible error as the Yellows circulated the ball.
Emery looked to the bench, trying to freshen up his team. Fer Niño and Yeremy Pino came on just after the hour mark, while Pervis Estupiñán followed them not long later.
Asenjo stepped up in the 72nd minute to deny Iñaki Williams from scoring. The forward’s header from point-blank range after a cross from the right was denied by the Villarreal goalkeeper.
In the closing minutes, Emery made attacking substitutions. Samu Chukwueze returned after injury, while Jaume Costa came on at right-back, with Foyth moving into midfield. The Yellows’ bravery turned into more efforts on goal, but the scoreboard stayed the same.
Villarreal’s next game will be against FC Salzburg in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 32 at the Estadio de la Cerámica (Thursday, 6:55pm CET).
Athletic Club: Unai Simón; De Marcos, Yeray, Íñigo Martínez, Yuri; Berenguer (Capa, m. 78), Dani García, Unai López, Muniain; Raúl García (Villalibre, m. 82), Williams.
Villarreal CF: Asenjo; Foyth, Albiol, Pau, Pedraza (Chukwueze, m. 85); Trigueros (Yeremy, m. 61), Capoue (Jaume Costa, m. 85), Parejo, Moi Gómez (Estupiñán, m. 70); Gerard, Paco Alcácer (Fer Niño, m. 61).
Goals: 0-1. Min. 15: Gerard. 1-1. Min. 43: Berenguer.
Referee: Del Cerro Grande. Booked: Dani García, Unai López (Athletic); Capoue, Foyth (Villarreal).
Matchday information: Match corresponding to LaLiga Matchday 24 at San Mamés.