As the final whistle sounded – and Bayern Munich’s dejected superstars slumped to the ground – Villarreal’s substitutes rushed onto the pitch to join the team-mates who ousted the six-time European champions.
There would have been enough room at Bayern’s stadium for the entire population of Villarreal to celebrate with them on Tuesday after the team reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2006.
The differences in size and status between these clubs are so great that all 50,000 residents of the southeastern Spanish city would fit in Bayern’s Allianz Arena with 75,000 people.
🥳 16 years between Villarreal’s appearances in the Champions League semi-finals!#UCL pic.twitter.com/VkLixv15XJ
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) Apr 12, 2022
“We are a small town, but they are strong players,” said Villarreal coach Unai Emery after his team scored a late 1-1 draw that secured a 2-1 aggregate win in the quarter-finals.
Villarreal had won the first leg at home 1-0 when it squandered any chances for an even bigger lead, and Bayern had leveled the total score when Robert Lewandowski scored seven minutes into the second half. This time it was Bayern that missed opportunities to score again, and Samuel Chukwueze completed a counterattack in the 88th minute to surprisingly extend Villarreal into the league.
“They made the mistake today of not killing us and we took advantage of that,” said Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno. “What this team has done is amazing.”
Especially considering that Villarreal only qualified for the Champions League by winning the Europa League and are seventh in the Spanish league after struggling domestically. Bayern is now the runaway leader in the Bundesliga.
And while Bayern won the European Cup in 2020, the furthest that Villarreal has reached in the competition is the semi-final only time in 2006.
“If you only consider this game, without the first game, we should have continued convincingly,” said Bayern striker Thomas Müller. “It’s hard to accept this; I don’t know what to say.”
But with the same determination with which Villarreal defeated Manchester United on penalties in the 2021 Europa League final, the team has now ousted both Juventus and Bayern in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Another six-time champion could be knocked out to reach a first-ever Champions League final. Liverpool or Benfica await in the semi-finals, with the English club leading 3-1 over the Portuguese side en route to Wednesday’s second leg at Anfield.
Even when Lewandowski equalized the quarter-final on aggregate – with a low shot after being set up by Muller – Villarreal continued to cause problems for Bayern.
The decisive moment came when Dani Parejo took possession of the ball through the Villarreal penalty area and then launched the break away by sending the ball to Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso then pushed a pass over the face of the goal and Chukwueze shot into the top corner of the net.
Villarreal was frantic and held out for the momentous victory.
“We knew we would suffer in defense but we would get our chances,” said Moreno. “And in the end Chukwueze was able to make the most of it. We want to thank those who came here tonight and those who are in Villarreal. It’s great to be a Villarreal fan, and you have to enjoy these kinds of evenings.”
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