Villarreal - Borussia Mönchengladbach twice came from behind to retain top spot in Group A, but failed to book themselves a place in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 following a highly-entertaining 2-2 draw on the road against Villarreal CF.

Gladbach had no answer for the Yellow Submarines’ free-flowing football in the first half as Luciano Vietto broke the deadlock. However, second-half strikes from Raffael and Granit Xhaka either side of Denis Cheryshev’s effort left the Foals needing just a point from the final game against FC Zürich to reach the knockout stages.

Vietto puts Villarreal ahead


Both sides exchanged hopeful efforts in the opening exchanges with little or no success, but it was Villarreal who got to grips with proceedings as they sparked into life after Raffael was forced to clear Bruno Soriano’s goal-bound header off the line. Gladbach were taking a few too many risks at the back with Villarreal first to every ball, allowing the hosts to take the lead through Vietto, who used his speed to great effect before slotting past Yann Sommer.

With the Foals’ backline struggling to get to grips with their hosts’ high-octane build-up play, Cheryshev and Manu Trigueros both continued to wreak havoc in the final third with the Russian firing just wide before Trigueros stung the palms of Sommer from range. Ibrahima Traore’s harmless free-kick was as close as Gladbach came to restoring parity and Lucien Favre’s side could have little argument against going in at the break behind.

Xhaka stunner saves Gladbach


Having never really got going in the first-half, the Foals had it all to do after the restart, but immediately fell into bad habits as they allowed Mario an early sight of goal that went unpunished. The visitors finally managed to test Sergio Asenjo five minutes after the restart with Havard Nordtveit’s free-kick and Branimir Hrgota’s follow up forcing the Argentinian to make a strong double save.

It was the spark Gladbach needed and the equaliser presented itself soon after as Raffael’s dipping drive shortly before the hour mark caught Asenjo out. However, Villarreal soon had the lead back as Vietto again broke free to cross before Cheryshev capitalised on a mistake by Julian Korb to fire home from eight yards.

Not to be outdone, Gladbach restored parity within four minutes as Xhaka produced a thunderous free-kick which left Asenjo helpless as it cannoned off the underside of the bar. With the game hanging in the balance, Favre introduced Patrick Herrmann and Max Kruse off the bench, with the former going closest to a winner only for the post to deny both him and the Foals all three points.

Line-ups:

Villarreal: Asenjo - Mario, Gabriel, Víctor Ruiz, Jaume Costa - Trigueros (Espinosa 81'), Bruno Soriano, Cani (J. dos Santos 56'), Cheryshev - Uche (Pina 71'), Vietto

Gladbach: Sommer - Korb, Brouwers, Jantschke, Dominguez - Xhaka, Nordtveit - Hazard, Raffael, Traore (Herrmann 71') - Hrgota (Kruse 71')

Goals: 1-0 Vietto (26'), 1-1 Raffael (50'), 2-1 Cheryshev (63'), 2-2 Xhaka (67')