Villarreal took one step closer to reaching the semi-final of the Europa League following a narrow 1-0 win away against Dinamo Zagreb.
A 44th minute penalty converted by Villarreal’s top scorer in the competition, Gerard Moreno settled the contest at the Stadion Maksimir.
The match also saw two Nigerians on the pitch, and not for the first time in this round of the competition.
Iyayi Atiemwen making his seventh appearance in the Europa League this season only managed an hour of football.
Atiemwen came into the tie with two goals to his name, both scored in the group stages, while his compatriot Samuel Chukwueze didn’t pack that much threat in his 69 minutes on the pitch.
Chukwueze has scored only once in this Europa League campaign, and twice the whole season in all competitions.
The Winger started on Thursday and in his 8th appearance this season in Europe, the 21 year-old was slightly underwhelming.
However Manager Unai Emery did not dwell on individual performances after the game, choosing instead to praise the collective.
“It was a difficult game. Dinamo Zagreb have knocked out big teams and are having a very impressive season. They are talented and we had to put in an impressive performance,” Emery said.
“We competed very well. Winning in Zagreb isn’t easy. We have to be satisfied, but we are prudent because there are another 90 minutes left.
“We want to maintain a constant idea of play. From there, we position ourselves so the players feel comfortable. We were capable of having good moments throughout the 90 minutes.
“It’s a good result, but we were looking for the second because that is our mentality. Now in the second leg, we need to continue to respect our opposition a lot.
“Confidence is growing day by day. The players are comfortable. Wins strengthen the group, but we need to continue looking forward because on Sunday, we have another game, against Osasuna,” concluded Emery.