Villarreal CF underlined their credentials as UEFA Europa League contenders as 90 minutes of deft, daring and increasingly confident football made light work of Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Leading 3-2 after last week’s first leg, splendid strikes in each half from Santi Cazorla and Giuseppe Rossi saw them through to Friday’s quarter-final draw, Gonzalo’s own goal eight minutes from time proving little more than a consolation for the visitors.
Cazorla and Rossi, now the UEFA Europa League’s top scorer with eight goals, finished clinically and led Jupp Heynckes’ troops a merry dance all night. They took the tie utterly out of their reach before easing off and Leverkusen finished strongly, bringing two marvellous saves from Diego López. The German side made stern competitors but Villarreal were confident winners.
With Nilmar and Cani rested, FIFA World Cup winner Carlos Marchena made a rare, but typically sparkling cameo appearance in midfield. His neat, quick passing was the metronome via which Villarreal used the ball with intelligence, getting out of trouble and causing it for the visitors.
Rossi had gone closest by the time he sculpted the 33rd-minute opener for his Spanish team-mate, perfectly returning Cazorla’s pass and crashing the ball past René Adler. Renato Augusto was the standard bearer as Leverkusen tried to prise a way back with his one effort in first half added time and then another shot which forced López into a stunning full-length save just before the hour.
But it was not enough. Four minutes later Cazorla returned the favour for Rossi to fire a lovely left-footed drive past Adler and, at 5-2 Villarreal knew they were through. Amid wave after Mexican wave in the Madrigal stands, Michael Ballack came on and Leverkusen fought diligently. They found reward when Erin Derdiyok and Gonzalo contested Daniel Schwaab’s cross and the ball found its way into the Villarreal net.
69 min. Nilmar for Rossi
74 min. Capdevila for Borja Valero
80 min. Cani for Santi Cazorla
43 min. Sam for Castro
53 min. Ballack for Kießling
60 min. Schwaab for Vida
Yellow Cards: Gonzalo Rodriguez (Villarreal); Reinartz,Kadlec,Schwaab,L. Bender (all Leverkusen)
1:0 Santi Cazorla (33 min.)
2:0 Rossi (61 min.)
2:1 Gonzalo Rodriguez (82 min.)
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