Villarreal CF put themselves back in contention in UEFA Europa League Group D with a hard fought win against Club Brugge KV.
The visitors lost Ronald Vargas to an early red card and although Giuseppe Rossi's goal was cancelled out before the break by Ryan Donk, Gonzalo won the game. It was also to be an eventful night for reserve goalkeeper Geert De Vlieger who was standing in for injured Brugge first choice Stijn Stijnen. Initially the 38-year-old was both busy and effective but eventually departed injured on the hour.
Villarreal looked as if they meant to finish the match as a contest within the first 20 minutes. Jozy Altidore was the first to test De Vlieger within seconds of the kick-off when Rossi and Cani combined to send the American clear but his shot was too close to the advancing keeper. Then Cani burst into the box but failed to take full benefit from a clear chance.
However those two opportunities were less frustrating for the loyal Villarreal supporters than when Altidore, in the 18th minute, again went one on one with De Vlieger but could not find the target. By the time of the home side's breakthrough Brugge were down to ten men, Vargas dismissed for use of the elbow on Cani.
Momentarily there was tension and Cani was taken off on a stretcher not long afterwards following a sliding challenge by Jonathan Blondel but finally Villarreal struck. Just before the break Joan Capdevila centred from the left and Rossi slid in to make it 1-0.
However the lead lasted for less than seven minutes. In first-half added time Gonzalo collided with his own keeper Diego López allowing Blondel's free-kick to land at the feet of Donk who scored with ease.
The 56th minute was the key moment when substitute Jefferson Montero crossed perfectly for Gonzalo to head home firmly. Try as they might Villarreal could not add to the Argentinian defender's crucial strike after Colin Coosemans came on in Brugge goal but they are now within a point of leaders PAOK FC, who visit on 21 October. That night Brugge, two points adrift at the bottom, go to NK Dinamo Zagreb.
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