Villarreal travelled to Bergamo this evening to take on Atalanta in a Champions League tie of titanic importance. The match was supposed to take place yesterday evening, but heavy snowfall forced UEFA to postpone the fixture for exactly 23 hours.
The Yellow Submarine were second in Group F heading into the game, four points behind Manchester United and one ahead of Atalanta. They knew that if they avoided defeat they’d make it to the last 16, and that’s exactly what they did. They won 3-2.
Villarreal struck first blood and took the lead inside three minutes. Dani Parejo released Arnaut Danjuma in on goal, and the Dutchman made no mistake once the chance presented itself. He finished coolly, between the legs of the opposing goalkeeper.
The Yellow Submarine doubled their advantage shortly before half-time. This time it was Etienne Capoue who delivered the blow, finishing superbly close to goal. Danjuma struck again to make it 3-0 at the beginning of the second half, this time rolling the ball past the goalkeeper after good work from Gerard Moreno.
Ruslan Malinovsky pulled on back in the 71st minute to spark hopes of a late revival, finishing accurately from outside the box, before Duvan Zapata scored a second to really unsettle Spanish nerves. But it was too little, too late for the Italians.
“We knew it was going to be very difficult,” Unai Emery said post-match as carried by Marca. “In addition, we had to release the energy of not playing on Wednesday and get ourselves ready with positive energy to execute on the pitch. [Atalanta] make you run, but you have to beat them and get past their goalkeeper.
“Going 3-0 up gave us a boost, but we had to keep it going. We’re finding in this competition the joys that we’re lacking in La Liga. We have to take advantage of this to try and strengthen our campaign. Now, we have to build on this performance and this way of playing, which we’re not managing in La Liga.”