Valencia set up a Europa League semi-final against Arsenal as they made light work of Villarreal by winning 2-0 on Thursday to seal a 5-1 aggregate victory.
Holding a comfortable 3-1 advantage from the first leg, Toni Lato got things started for Valencia following a bright start, volleying home from close range after superb work from the impressive Goncalo Guedes.
Valencia continued to dominate at a wet Mestalla and Dani Parejo, who had a penalty saved in the first leg, dashed Villarreal’s slim comeback hopes when his deflected free-kick found the net early in the second half.
Los Che will now face Arsenal and their former boss Unai Emery at Emirates Stadium on May 2 before welcoming the Gunners back to Spain a week later as they bid to reach their first major European final since 2004.
With Marcelino having acknowledged that the first-leg result flattered his side, Valenica were sharp out of the blocks this time around, and were rewarded when Lato deftly helped Guedes’ exquisite chipped pass past Andres Fernandez in the 13th minute.
— Valencia CF English (@valenciacf_en) April 18, 2019
Valencia should have been out of sight a minute later, but Kevin Gameiro failed to direct his lob on target.
Fernandez looked to have made a terrible error when he rushed 35 yards out to try and meet a loose ball, but fortunately for Villarreal their goalkeeper was in the right place to stop Gameiro’s snapshot.
There was nothing Fernandez could do to prevent Valencia doubling their tally nine minutes after the restart, however, Parejo’s free-kick looping in wickedly off a deflection from Ramiro Funes Mori.
Alfonso Pedraza went close to snatching a consolation for Villarreal, but Neto was on hand to keep Valencia’s clean sheet intact as Los Che progressed in style.
What does it mean? Los Che back where they belong
UEFA Cup winners in 2004, Valencia have struggled to make their impact felt in either of Europe’s international club competitions in recent years, last reaching the Europa League semi-finals in 2014 when they lost to eventual winners Sevilla. But despite a season of playing catch-up in LaLiga, Marcelino’s side have every chance of capping their campaign in style, though Arsenal – managed by three-time winner of this competition Emery – are likely to be considered favourites.
Meanwhile, Villarreal’s attention must now switch fully to retaining their LaLiga status. The Yellow Submarine sit two points above the drop zone with six games remaining.
Guedes turns on the style
Guedes scored twice in the first leg, and though he was quiet for large spells of that game, the former Paris Saint-Germain youngster was heavily involved throughout Thursday’s encounter, playing a crucial role in the opener when he robbed full debutant Andrei Ratiu of possession before expertly lifting the ball into Lato’s path.
Ratiu sets the tone for dismal Villarreal display
With Guedes hitting form, it was always likely to be a difficult day for the 20-year-old full-back, who could not cope with Valencia’s number seven and was outmuscled far too easily in the build up to Lato’s opener.
Real Betis are next up for Valencia, as they chase a top-four finish in LaLiga. Villarreal are still firmly in the relegation scrap, and host Leganes on Sunday.
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