A brilliant free-kick by Anders Due secured Aalborg BK's second point in Group E at the expense of high-flying Villarreal CF and kept the home club in UEFA Champions League contention.
Villarreal were on course to take maximum plunder from their trip to northern Denmark when substitute Guille Franco gave them the lead for the second time after 75 minutes. But just as Giuseppe Rossi's opening goal had been cancelled out by Jeppe Curth soon after half-time, so the hosts summoned another equaliser, through Due, with the clock ticking down. AaB remain bottom of the section after Celtic FC's draw with Manchester United FC yet could still finish in the top two where Villarreal currently reside.
With Joseba Llorente having scored a hat-trick in Villarreal's 6-3 victory in the reverse fixture on Matchday 3, it was no surprise to see him closely attended here in Aalborg. He was involved in an early challenge with home captain Thomas Augustinussen which resulted in the forward receiving treatment. Back on the field, the Spanish Liga's second-placed team initially held sway, although AaB midfielder Kasper Bøgelund broke the trend by surging forward and forcing Diego López into a low save.
Ebb and flow
An AaB side under the caretaker tutelage of Allan Kuhn – who replaced coach Bruce Rioch after the heavy defeat at El Madrigal on 21 October – suggested a more sustained threat when forward Curth turned and let fly from the edge of the box, López again making the stop. By the 20-minute mark, Due was knocking at the door again with a close-range header, but with no end product to the Red and Whites' pressure, Manuel Pellegrini's men regained the initiative.
Marcos Senna drove a low effort from outside the area which Karim Zaza tipped to safety. The Danish titleholders' No1 was back in action following an inswinging corner from Senna, keeping out Llorente's close-range volley. If Villarreal were signalling their goalscoring intent, they delivered upon this promise four minutes before half-time. Rossi got his second goal of the UEFA Champions League campaign when he side-footed the ball beyond Zaza from a position just inside the box, following a run by Robert Pirès.
AaB, third from bottom in their domestic Superligaen, have taken their share of blows this season, yet they showed an ability to roll with the punches here. From being down at the interval, they were quickly out of the blocks after it, and deservedly equalised in the 54th minute. Curth collected Caca's superb back-heel and rifled past López. One almost became two when Bøgelund was the beneficiary of Andreas Johansson's through pass and powered in a shot which the Villarreal custodian saved at full stretch. With the opposition in the ascendancy, Pellegrini changed tack by withdrawing first Pirès for Cani, then Rossi for Franco.
The latter decision looked a masterstroke when Franco controlled on his chest Llorente's lofted ball over the AaB defence to volley unerringly past Zaza. However, that assumption was counting without an equally impressive strike from midfielder Due, who curled his 81st-minute free-kick over the wall and beyond the left hand of the beaten López.