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Villarreal CF coach Juan Carlos Garrido said his players should be "really satisfied" with their UEFA Europa League campaign despite bowing out to FC Porto at the last-four stage on Thursday.
The huge disappointment of losing their third major European semi-final, despite securing a thrilling 3-2 win in the second leg, was such that there might have been depression and an unwillingness to discuss events at El Madrigal last night. Yet for Garrido and his players the overriding feeling at the end of a topsy-turvy evening was one of pride and satisfaction.
"We have to be really satisfied and content with the fact that we played really good football, overcame many hurdles and showed total faith in being able to overturn the 5-1 deficit from the first leg," the Spanish trainer told UEFA.com. "Even when it was clear we were not going to reach the final these lads gave everything to make sure we bowed out with style and won the match itself. I am proud of that."
Few could deny the Spanish outfit had given a good account of themselves against the newly-crowned Portuguese champions. Despite Mateo Musacchio's own goal cancelling out Cani's opener and Falcao giving the visitors the lead early in the second half, Villarreal rallied and claimed a superb win on the night thanks to Joan Capdevila's volley and a Giuseppe Rossi penalty.
Garrido's men were ultimately left to rue a disastrous end to the first leg in Portugal that saw them concede four quick goals. "Out of the entire two contests, we had 20 bad minutes, where we committed errors, and that has cost us everything," Garrido pointed out.
One player who certainly enhanced his reputation is Cani. His two goals and one assist against André Villas-Boas's team, plus an all-round display of sporting belligerence at the Madrigal, were impressive to watch. The 29-year-old attacking midfielder said: "We knew from the start that Porto are one of the best around, with great striking power, and they proved that by scoring from most of the chances we allowed them. We really believe that for 120 minutes of the tie we were more than able to go toe-to-toe with them and at least match them."
Cani is now keen to put the setback to one side and focus on finishing the domestic season well. "It's a big deal for us to finish in the top three in La Liga, qualify for the UEFA Champions League and try to go at least this far again next season," he said. "Certainly our fans deserve that because they were magnificent tonight."
It was a sentiment echoed by Garrido. "This has been a very important day for the club, the day when the feeling between the fans and Villarreal has probably been at its strongest," he said. "In fact it was a historic communion between fans and club, an indication of how important the Yellow Submarine is to this community."
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