Villarreal have it all to do next week after they conceded two away goals in a 2-1 defeat to Monaco in Wednesday’s Champions League playoff first leg.
Alexandre Pato and Roberto Soriano were among the new boys included in Fran Escriba’s first Villarreal XI as Monaco were without the injured Radamel Falcao, although they did welcome back former Barcelona target Bernardo Silva.
The Principality outfit faced Valencia at the same stage of the Champions League last season but were beaten 4-3 over both legs as Los Che qualified for the group stage.
However, the Yellow Submarine’s hopes of replicating their fellow Valencians were quickly hindered by Alfred N’Diaye, whose clumsy trip on Thomas Lemar near the byline next to Sergio Asenjo’s goal inside just two minutes allowed Fabinho to smash the resulting penalty home.
Chances in the match were subsequently at a premium as Monaco played deeply and looked to stifle the hosts, whose lack of invention in the final third frustrated the faithful at El Madrigal.
However, any murmurs of discontent would turn into cheers before half-time as Pato read a flick-on from his fellow new boy Rafael Santos Borre and headed past Danijel Subasic.
Villarreal started the second half well enough, but their absence of cohesion returned and a wonderful solo effort from Silva 20 minutes from time marked curtains for the hosts as the No 10 took on a knockdown from substitute Guido Carrillo down the right, cut across the pitch, beating several opponents on the way, and drove a reverse finish past Asenjo.
The Yellow Submarine’s injury crisis had seen them without first-team trio Cedric Bakambu, Denis Cheryshev and Jonathan dos Santos, and it was highlighted further by the introduction of youth striker Mario Gonzalez – whom the side looked to for a late equaliser.
But that late equaliser wasn’t forthcoming, and Silva almost grabbed his second. The Portuguese ghosted into the box from the left and drilled an inviting cross into the penalty area, which Asenjo let go, but none of his Monaco teammates could sweep it over the line.
Samu Castillejo’s square ball from the left then intended to pick out a teammate at the far post, yet it nearly caught out Subasic, who had to tip over and followed up by pushing away a rasping shot in the midst of injury time.
Nonetheless, Monaco survived Benjamin Mendy’s red card for recklessly flying into Mario Gaspar and then slapping Castillejo to secure a healthy advantage ahead of next week’s return leg at Stade Louis II.
Villarreal 1-2 Monaco
Pato 36, Silva 72 (V) Fabinho pen 3, Mendy sent off 86 (M)
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, N’Diaye, Jose Angel; Soriano, Trigueros, Bruno; Castillejo, Borre (Mario Gonzalez 76), Pato
Monaco: Subasic; Raggi, Glik, Jemerson, Mendy; Dirar, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar; Silva (Moutinho 81); Germain (Carrillo 69)
Referee: Brych [GER]