Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s hopes of reaching the quarter finals of the UEFA Europa League hang in the balance following a 2-0 defeat away to Villarreal CF in their Round of 16 first leg on Thursday.
Goals: 1-0 Bakambu (5'), 2-0 Bakumbu (55')
Red cards: Jedvaj (90+5')
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez returned for Leverkusen after missing last weekend's 3-3 draw with FC Augsburg through suspension, but the majority of the first-half action at El Madrigal took place in front of the visitors’ goal. Roberto Soldado was at the heart of Villarreal’s most threatening attacking forays, testing Bernd Leno inside two minutes before sending Cedric Bakumbu clear for the opener. A fine reaction save from Leno prevented Soldado from adding a second, with Leverkusen’s only real chance of the half falling to Hernandez, whose looping header failed to trouble Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areolo.
Leverkusen threw bodies forward in search of an away goal, but it was a ploy that proved costly as Villarreal doubled their advantage ten minutes into the second period. After Julian Brandt conceded possession in the opposing half, the Yellow Submarine broke at speed through Bakumbu, who slammed in his second of the night with aplomb. Leverkusen upped their intensity levels following the introduction of Australia international forward Robbie Kruse, but a long-range effort from 19-year-old substitute Marlon Frey was the closest they came to getting a foothold back in the contest. Tin Jedvaj's late sending off for two bookable offences only added to the Rhineland outfit's misery.
Man of the match
It was not Leverkusen’s best performance in Europe this season, but they remain in the tie thanks to one or two excellent Leno saves.
Villarreal: Areola - Mario, Bailly, Victor Ruiz, Rukavina - Samu Castillejo (Nahuel 80'), Manu Trigueros, Bruno Soriano (c), Denis Suarez - Soldado (Baptistao 76'), Bakumbu (Adrian 82')
Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Papadopoulos, Tah, Wendell - Kramer (Frey 63'), Calhanoglu (c) - Bellarabi (Mehmedi 86'), Brandt - Kießling (Kruse 67'), Chicharito