Villarreal faced Arsenal at La Ceramica this evening in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, going 2-0 up to ultimately win 2-1 in an intriguing game that saw three goals and two red cards, setting up the second leg in London perfectly.
The hosts are seventh in La Liga, having lost three of their last five domestic fixtures. The visitors are tenth in the Premier League, having won one of their last five. Unai Emery, a specialist in the Europa League with three titles under his belt from his time with Sevilla, will have been full of beans to face his former club.
Villarreal took the lead inside the fifth minute, with Manu Trigueros firing home. Raul Albiol doubled their advantage just shy of the half-hour mark, giving Mikel Arteta’s men a mountain to climb, only for things to go from bad to worse for the Englishmen when on-loan Real Madrid man Dani Ceballos saw red in the 57th minute.
The Londoners got a goal back soon after, however, when Nicolas Pepe converted from the penalty spot to cut the deficit to just one goal, and Villarreal were themselves reduced to ten men when Etienne Capoue saw red in the 80th minute, just-about hanging on to win.
“They escaped alive,” Pau Torres admitted post-game in comments carried by Diario AS. “It’s clear that we’ve won and it’s a good result, but seeing how the game went we should have killed them. I can’t explain what’s happened [in the second half]. We’ve had clear chances they’ve found a penalty that I haven’t seen, but I know my feet were still.”