Villarreal gave this Saturday an almost definitive step to qualify for the next edition of the Europa League after beating Athletic Club at La Cerámica in a very comfortable game that led to a great goal from a direct free kick by Álex Baena, also the protagonist of the final 5-1, and in which Nico Jackson, with a double, forcefully took advantage of the defensive facilities of the Basque team.
Athletic, with Europe still as a goal, He also ended up thrashed due to his mistakes in attack, because until minute 60 they had almost as many chances as their rival, but Villarreal were much more effective in both areas and that was the key to the clash.
He had the first half of everything, with chances, good saves, goals and controversy, because Athletic went to half-time just one goal behind thanks to Sancet’s penalty after a hold by Parejo that Del Cerro Grande, who had just disallowed a goal from Inaki Williams for offside, he saw outside the area but the VAR corrected it.
The match began very entertaining, with a cross shot from Iñaki Williams and a distant kick from Pedraza that Unai Simón deflected to a corner. Even better was the next stop by the Basque goalkeeper, this time atHe thwarted a header from point-blank range by Yeremy Pino that ended up being repelled by the crossbar.
He could no longer do anything before the masterful strike from a direct free kick by Álex Baena, who He made it 1-0 with a shot that was as strong as it was well placed, hitting the post (m.24). A little earlier he had kept his Reina goal to zero, which he showed off with his foot to deflect a very clear shot from Nico Williams.
It didn’t take much for Athletic to recover from the conceded goal but they were still unsuccessful in the shot. Once again Nico Williams, this time with a volley inside the area, had the visitor’s goal in his boots. Quite the opposite of Villarreal, who hit the second he had. It was Jackson when he pushed a loose ball into the back of the goal after a shot from Baena.
But neither the penalty goal in the added time of the first half nor the passage through the locker room woke up Athletic, not very intense in defensive actions and very bad in guarding with any long ball sent by their rival. And in the first arrival, Villarreal made it 3-1, again by taking advantage of a rebound in the Jackson area after a shot by Yeremy.
Invisible seemed Athletic, who almost received the fourth from Chukwueze, annulled for offside at the start of the play. Athletic pulled out his fang on the pitch, with two yellow cards almost in a row, and Ernesto Valverde from the bench with the entry of Vesga, De Marcos and Muniain, but the shot backfired when they received the 4-1 after the umpteenth defensive error with an own goal by Paredes.
Nor was luck on set pieces for Athletic, who made it 4-2 with a header from Dani García to the post and a shot from point-blank range by Sancet that Reina deflected improbably. The only thing missing from the La Cerámica party was a goal by Gerard Moreno, who in his gradual recovery played the last half hour alongside Lo Celso who also saw his goal disallowed for offside.
With the victory, rounded off with Baena’s 5-1 already in added time, Villarreal is placed nine points ahead of the seventh classified with four days to go and does not lose sight of fourth place, while Athletic, after four games without winning, will have to continue fighting for their place in the Conference League.