Champions League: Fairy-tale script for Villarreal
As the final whistle blew — and Bayern Munich’s dejected superstars slumped to the ground — Villarreal’s substitutes raced onto the field to join teammates who ousted the six-time European champions.
There would have been room enough in Bayern’s stadium for the entire population of Villarreal to celebrate with them Tuesday after the team reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2006.
Such are the disparities in size and status between these clubs, that all 50,000 residents of the southeastern Spanish city could fit into Bayern’s 75,000-capacity Allianz Arena. “We are a small city but they are strong players,” Villarreal coach Unai Emery said after his team earned a late 1-1 draw that secured a 2-1 aggregate victory in the quarters.
Villarreal had won the first leg 1-0 at home when they squandered chances for an even bigger lead, and Bayern had levelled the aggregate score when Robert Lewandowski netted seven minutes into the second half. This time it was Bayern that missed chances to score again, and Samuel Chukwueze completed a counterattack in the 88th minute to extend Villarreal surprising run in the competition. “They made the mistake of not killing us off and we took advantage of that,” Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno said. “What this team has done is great.”
Especially given that Villarreal only qualified for the Champions League by winning the Europa League and are seventh in the La Liga after struggling domestically. Bayern, meanwhile, are the runaway Bundesliga leaders.
“If you take just this game into account, without the first game, we should have gone through convincingly,” Bayern forward Thomas Mueller said.
But the same resolve that saw Villarreal beat Manchester United on penalties in the 2021 Europa League final has now seen the team oust both Juventus and Bayern in the knockout phase of the Champions League.
Even when Lewandowski levelled on aggregate — with a low shot after being set up by Müller — Villarreal continued to cause Bayern problems. The decisive moment came when Dani Parejo gained possession by the Villarreal penalty area and then launched the breakaway by sending the ball to Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso then slid a pass across the face of goal and Chukwueze struck into the top corner of the net.