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Europa League: Villarreal Get Passed Leverkusen

europa-league-newVillarreal are through to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals after another sound defensive display kept dominant Leverkusen’s comeback hopes at bay.

Trailing 2-0 after the round of 16 first leg, Leverkusen were always up against it and though they met the challenge head on, the comeback was never really on the cards. Kyriakos Papadopoulos went close to a breakthrough soon after half-time, heading against the bar, but that was as good as it got.

Leverkusen did link up well with some slick passing in midfield, dominating possession. Yet the final ball was always just lacking. There is no shame in that, and that sinking feeling in front of goal has become familiar for opponents of Villarreal of late – eight clean sheets in their past 11 outings bore testament to that.

Even when the hosts did find a way through, as Hakan Çalhanoğlu did on 19 minutes, the alert Sergio Asenjo blocked their path. Papadopoulos’s header following a corner almost did the trick, but in truth Villarreal always looked equally likely to score, with Denis Suárez, Roberto Soldado and Cédric Bakambu all spurning good chances.

You could not fault Leverkusen’s effort, even at the death when André Ramalho brilliantly intercepted Villarreal substitute Manu Trigueros’s shot on the line with the Bayer goal seemingly at his mercy. It mattered not, though. Bakambu and Villarreal had done the damage in the first leg.

Key man: Kyriakos Papadopoulos
A typically dynamic performance from the Greece centre-back. His block on Suárez before half-time kept the home side’s faint hopes alive and he came as close as anyone to conjuring up a goal, heading a corner into the ground and onto the bar. With Leverkusen battling for a European place in the Bundesliga, coach Roger Schmidt would not have enjoyed the sight of Papadopoulos limping off late on.

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