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The first moment of top-flight joy
The first moment of top-flight joy

A convincing win over UD Salamanca (5-0) was Villarreal’s first win in the top flight of Spanish football

With LaLiga being temporary suspended, here at Villarreal CF, we’ve decided to periodically relive moments, teams and people which have stood out in the club’s history. This Monday, we’re looking back at the Yellow Submarine’s first win in the top flight of Spanish football. 

The town of Vila-real was living a dream. In the 1998/99 season, Villarreal were in the top flight for the first team, facing the best sides from across Spain every weekend. After a start on one of the biggest stages around at the Santiago Bernabéu, where, despite the defeat, the Yellows went ahead through an early Gica Craioveanu goal, the Submarine had one point and were joint last after three games, against Real Madrid (4-1), RC Celta at El Madrigal (1-1) and Valencia at Mestalla (1-0).

On Matchday 4, El Madrigal was preparing to host its second match in the top flight of Spanish football against UD Salamanca, who went into the match full of confidence having beaten RC Deportivo La Coruña 3-1 at El Helmántico. On 27th September 1998, the Yellows fans packed the stadium. There was an exceptional atmosphere in the stands of El Madrigal, a prelude of what was set to happen that afternoon.

Villarreal, managed by Irulegui, had the following starting XI: Palop; Pascual, Imanol, Arregui, Saavedra; Díaz, Albelda, García Sanjuán, Robert; Craioveanu, Moisés. UD Salamanca, coached by Russo, took to the pitch with this line up: Stelea; Leo Ramos, Lanna, Lupidio, Vellisca; Giovanella, Rogério, Marinescu, Edu Alonso; Silvanni, Cardetti.

The match started with clear dominance from the home team, who went ahead within 20 minutes from a fantastic Craioveanu free-kick from the edge of the area. With a powerful effort to the near post, the Romanian striker put the Yellows ahead.

After a first half which saw both teams have good chances, with ten minutes gone in the second half, Villarreal scored their second. Craioveanu got on the end of a long ball from Palop, flicked on by a team-mate, to find himself in the area and stroke the ball home with the outside of his left foot.

After two quality goals from the Romanian, Villarreal took control of the game, which ended up becoming a party. Only four minutes after their second goal, Antonio Díaz added to the home side’s tally, getting on the end of a Saavedra assist on the edge of the box. The Yellows No.20 emulated Gica, finding the far post once more.

With 20 minutes to go, there was only one team in the match. In just over six minutes, Irulegui took off Albelda, Díaz and Craioveanu, brining on Gerard, Javi Prats and Alfaro. The latter joined the party, finishing off the goal fest with two late goals. A magnificent free-kick, and an injury-time bonus getting on the end of a Javi Prats cross.

If El Madrigal had a roof, it would have come off when referee Medina Cantalejo blew for full-time. The Yellows got their first win in the top flight (5-0). Now, 20 years later, Villarreal have 205 wins, becoming the 20th club  to win 300 games in the elite division of football in Spain.