Villarreal 1-2 Real Sociedad
Time and again it has felt as if Real Sociedad have come up short in the big moments this season. Yet during their penultimate shot at banging their fist on the table, they finally made a statement.
Both sides looked more comfortable without the ball in the first half, pressing high at every opportunity. From there came Villarreal’s opportunities, Samuel Chukwueze failing to get the best one on target.
It was an excellent set-piece that did break the deadlock. Dani Parejo’s ball to the far post was converted in glorious fashion, as Francis Coquelin successfully pulled off a flying scissor kick.
After half-time, the instructions were clear: La Real came out looking for goals while Villarreal came out looking not to concede them. It was Imanol Alguacil’s ambition which ended up being victorious.
With a helping hand from Geronimo Rulli. The under-fire Argentine didn’t claim a ball across the six yard box when he should have and Alexander Isak tapped in at the back post.
Villarreal had a penalty appeal given then turned down after a review as they rapidly sought to get themselves back in front. Yet that was the catalyst for more spaces to open up to La Real.
On the break Isak got in behind and squared for Alexander Sorloth. His effort was smothered, but Martin Zubimendi was on hand to tap home again.
The final minutes saw Villarreal throw themselves at La Real, but with little incision. Only Nicolas Jackson’s disallowed goal caused Alex Remiro any trouble.
Unai Emery is a masterful European tactician. Yet defeat here seals another questionable domestic campaign. The only European football they can secure would be a new adventure for Emery – the Europa Conference League.
For Real Sociedad, it’s vindication after a tough season. Goals have been the problem all year and five in the space of two matches turned out to be decisive. They qualify for the Europa League again, which is the prize for their perseverance after things threatened to be derailed.