Captain Hugo Mallo and top scorer Iago Aspas eased Celta Vigo into the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a 2-0 win at Krasnodar.
It meant a 4-1 aggregate victory for Eduardo Berizzo’s side, who put disappointing recent LaLiga form behind them to ride out pressure either side of half-time before Mallo’s first goal in European competition arrived.
The full-back was one of only three players remaining from the scratch side that lost 1-0 at Villarreal on Sunday, with Berizzo’s decision to prioritise continental success rewarded by a composed team performance.
A trademark Celta breakaway goal extinguished any lingering doubt 10 minutes from time, as Aspas linked smoothly with forward colleague John Guidetti to lift a crisp finish over the onrushing Andrei Sinitsyn.
Krasnodar’s misery was compounded when midfielder Charles Kabore collected a second yellow card in an aerial challenge with Jozabed – meaning he exited the tournament four minutes before the rest of his team-mates.
— RC Celta (@RCCelta) March 16, 2017
The home side were forced into a late change Cristian Ramirez pulled up in the warm-up, with Sergei Petrov coming in at left-back, and they enjoyed their first opening in the ninth minute – Wanderson shooting too close to Sergio Alvarez in the Celta goal from a tight angle.
Alvarez’s opposite number Sinitsyn pulled off a more taxing stop, tipping over athletically when Denmark international Pione Sisto cut inside from the left flank and let fly.
Mauricio Pereyra’s 29th minute free-kick swerved wickedly but Alvarez recovered from his initial misjudgement to push it to safety.
Krasnodar continued to press as half-time approached, with the dangerous Viktor Claesson twice shooting narrowly wide.
The breakthrough proved elusive and at half-time Igor Shalimov sent on Russia international Pavel Mamaev, recently back from a long-term knee injury absence, in place of the ineffective Vyacheslav Podberezkin on the right-hand side of his attack.
But the hosts were left with a mountain to climb in the 52nd minute, when Aspas’ shot from Guidetti’s cutback was bravely blocked by Petrov and the ball ran kindly for Mallo to smash into the top corner from 10 yards.
Substitutes Joaozinho and Ricardo Laborde sparked an admirable final charge for Krasnodar – the latter crossing for Wanderson to lash a half-volley wide.
Moments later, Joaozinho blazed across the face of goal with Alvarez rooted to the spot, but the desperate nature of their predicament meant Krasnodar left the back door open.
Aspas got his 20th of the season when he streamed on to Guidetti’s lofted return pass to confidently lob Sinitsyn, before Kabore added to the woes of a forgettable night for Shalimov.
Berizzo’s attention will now return to LaLiga and a Sunday trip to Deportivo, where Celta must look to end a four-match winless run in Spain’s top flight.
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