UEFA Champions League: Villarreal win over Bayern Munich validates Unai Emery's turnaround

UEFA Champions League: Villarreal win over Bayern Munich validates Unai Emery’s turnaround

Villarreal CF have taken a big step towards a first semi-final in the UEFA Champions League since 2005-06 thanks to Arnaut Danjuma’s early attack at the Estadio de la Ceramica, which was enough to give a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich ahead of next week’s return leg in Germany.

The Spaniards were good value for their win and will be disappointed to have only one goal to show for such an impressive display after Francis Coquelin had what would have been ruled out for a second, much to Manuel Neuer’s relief in the visiting goal .

Gerard Moreno hit the post as Alphonso Davies put in a fantastic block to prevent El Submarino Amarillo from scoring again, but the collective strength displayed in the win will long be remembered no matter what happens next week in Bavaria.

In many ways this is a deserved confirmation of the work Villarreal boss Unai Emery has done since his arrival in 2020, as the 50-year-old is somewhat unjustly maligned for his battle in the Champions League despite his impressive UEFA Europa League record.

Emery helped the Castellon outfit get their first major silverware with last season’s Europa League title against Manchester United and now they can dream of a second UCL semi-final appearance, something he couldn’t do as Paris Saint-Germain boss before moving to Arsenal.

Back in his homeland, Emery is thriving again and while Villarreal will have to put up a fight to qualify for Europe via LaLiga, their continental forays under the former Sevilla and Valencia CF tactician will live on for years to come when this one is over.

Emery’s blueprint for success, particularly with Sevilla where he won three consecutive Europa League titles, is to create a team that is greater than the sum of its parts and like in Andalusia that approach works extremely well at Villarreal who is an eternal underdog both at home and in the world. continent.

Juventus, Atalanta BC and now Bayern have all found first hand that the Hondarribia man is in his element when his team is not fanatical and gets almost no chance of getting a result and they knew that against the Germans by sheer hunger, work pace and strategy.

In the end, Villarreal was unable to count their chances more than once due to Danjuma’s accidental finish, but at least they have as it was no less than deserved for what was an impressive collective spectacle in which almost everyone starred or played a part. .

The defense deserves credit with Juan Foyth, Geronimo Rulli and Pervis Estupinan, all excellent for keeping a clean sheet behind the solid midfields of Coquelin, Dani Parejo and Etienne Capoue, who maximized his experience against a technically superior Bayern.

Getting past Julian Nagelsmann and his players in the second leg remains an extremely arduous task, but this result and display will have supported the Spaniards, who will now believe they are doing the unthinkable and amplifying their Juve scalps.

Whether they do it or not, Emery’s rejuvenation of Villarreal on the continental stage is something the entire club will remember for a long time to come, 17 years after they first allowed themselves to compete against the odds in the Champions’ final. League reach under Manuel Pellegrini.

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