GAMES Anderlecht has qualified for the quarterfinals of the Conference League at the expense of Villarreal. A torpedo from substitute Slimani after halftime sunk the 'yellow submarine' from Spain. Purple-White did need an excellent Verbruggen to keep the Spaniards from scoring a goal several times, but Purple-White also got the necessary chances. So Anderlecht surprised against a Spanish sub-topper and over the two matches, that is certainly not undeserved.
The early stages looked like a new Spanish Furie. After two minutes, Alex was already in front of Verbruggen and Villarreal was also dangerous in minutes five and seven. Despite the Spanish pressure, Anderlecht countered for the first time through a too weak shot by Dreyer in minute 13. After twenty minutes, Chukwueze aimed at goal, but Debast headed the ball off the line. After that, Anderlecht recovered. Amuzu, clearly faster than Foyth, bumped into Reina and a bit later nobody from the Purple and White could take advantage of sloppy play by the Spaniards. Raman also tried, but the angle was too sharp.
Then Villarreal again took control of the match. Verbruggen cleared a low shot from Alex out of the goal. Just before half-time, the Dutch goalkeeper saved another shot and a ball by Moreno also hit the bar. Anderlecht certainly could not grumble with the 0-0 at halftime, although it could have scored itself.
After halftime, Murillo had the first big chance, but the Panamanian was too surprised to push the ball into goal. Villarreal responded with an angled shot. In minute 54, Verbruggen picked up with a crucial save on a rebound by Moreno after he had to take a hard shot. After that, as in the Lotto Park, the Spaniards seemed to have shot their best powder and Anderlecht held on quite easily. Anderlecht lined up higher and kept Villarreal away from their own goal.
After a combination, Murillo served the free-standing Slimani at the far post. The Algerian masterfully kicked the ball into goal. In the added time, Villarreal came close to equalizing twice more. Verbruggen pushed a header out of goal and in the 93rd minute Verbruggen was once again the lifesaver. He saved a last Spanish convulsion from close range.
Although Anderlecht is still in a historically low place in the league, despite recent improvement, this European campaign has already provided some bright spots this season. Tomorrow's draw for the quarterfinals is already underway.
Goal(s):0-1 Slimani 72'
Villarreal:Reina, Cuenca, Gerard, Foyth, Parejo, Chukwueze, Alex B., Alberto M (Pino 70'), Morales (Jackson 70'), Mandi, Terrats (Lo Celso 57')
Anderlecht:Verbruggen, Murillo, Debast, Vertonghen, N'Diaye, Diawara, Verschaeren (Arnstad 74'), Refaelov (Ashimeru 62'), Amuzu (Stroeykens 85', Dreyer, Raman (Slimani 62')
Yellow: Murillo 18', Verschaeren 65', Pino, Slimani 69', Cuence 77', Ashimeru 81'
Referee: Marco di Bello
Stadium: Estadio de la Cerámica
Source: © Internal source