After memorable Champions League nights for Real Madrid and Atlético, Villarreal topped them both in Turin on Wednesday. A small-town club that has established itself in the elite thanks to years of exemplary management, the Groguets knocked out the mighty Juventus. It was a glorious 3-0 win, following which thoughts inevitably turned to a good man, José Manuel Llaneza, one of the driving forces behind this great project, who is going through a very tough time. It was a victory Villarreal worked for with real patience, by sticking to the game plan. Having defended stoutly until the introduction of Gerard Moreno, they then reaped the benefits of his attacking incursions, which wrought havoc with the Juventus defence.
Villarreal took to the pitch in extremely cautious mood; tiresomely so, you could say. They were in no hurry to come forward, and moved the ball without great speed. It was their way of taking the heat out of the cauldron, of disheartening the home fans - and it worked. That said, Juventus did create four chances that goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli dealt with well, other than one that bounced off the bar. After the break, the alarm bells started to ring: Villarreal couldn’t get out at all, either quickly or slowly. They seemed to be stuck very deep. Then they threw on Moreno, whose fitness for the game had been very much touch and go. With him on the field, Villarreal came to life, scoring three in quick succession, two from clear penalties.
Villarreal's win over Agnelli's Juve is significant
So Villarreal go through, and after so much pessimistic talk in Spain, it turns that three of the eight Champions League quarter-finalists are from LaLiga - as many as the Premier League has. Germany and Portugal have one each. We’re not in such bad shape, then. Of particular significance is that 3-0 win for Villarreal in front of the watching Andrea Agnelli, Florentino Pérez’s co-champion of the failed Super League. That’s a project that has no room for a club like Villarreal. That’s football: heading into the match, the spotlight was on Dusan Vlahovic, a striker who really does look very exciting, and yet it was an old warhorse, Moreno, who ruled the roost.