Sonny Anderson and Juan Riquelme scored vital away goals as Villarreal CF secured a 2-2 draw against Galatasaray SK at the Atatürk Olimpiyat stadium to put themselves in firm contention for a place in the UEFA Cup fourth round.
Under the charge of assistant coach Francisco García following Benito Floro's surprise resignation on Monday, the away team were without former AC Milan striker José Mari and suspended Brazilian defender Juliano Belletti. For the hosts, Hakan Sükür was injured and Hasan Sas started on the bench.
Villarreal made the perfect start, Anderson opening the scoring in the sixth minute when he pounced on a clever through-ball from Roger García and slid a right-foot shot into the bottom corner. Buoyed by the goal, and inspired by the busy movement of the excellent Riquelme, the Spanish team dominated the initial exchanges.
Not until Volkan Arslan began to impose himself in midfield did Galatasaray work their way into the game. His creativity and guile briefly established a foothold for the home team. But Riquelme ensured they were not in charge for long, running on to a clever through-ball from Anderson before stepping inside to poke a shot underneath Faryd Mondragón in the 22nd minute.
Galatasaray, however, refused to be demoralised and responded resolutely, increasing their work rate and retaining possession. Their efforts were rewarded when they halved the deficit in the 26th minute. Goalkeeper José Reina could only parry a venomous free-kick from César Prates and Murat Erdogan was on hand to scramble in the rebound. The remainder of the first half was evenly contested as Argentinian centre-back Fabricio Coloccini repeatedly cajoled his team-mates to maintain defensive discipline.
Galatasaray began the second-half incisively and Prates blended power and placement to devastating effect to equalise in the 51st minute. His free-kick from distance following a foul on substitute João Batista curled over the wall and into the top corner, leaving Reina motionless.
Villarreal's grip on the match further slipped when Sergio Ballesteros was sent off in the 61st minute. Prates went desperately close to rifling in another fierce strike from the resultant free-kick and the hosts were now firmly in control, retaining the ball for uninterrupted periods despite failing to snatch the winner. But the visitors will be satisfied with their efforts in Turkey and are in a promising position for the return leg at El Madrigal on 3 March.
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim claimed after the game that his team were unfortunate not to win, saying: "I believe my players can do better than that. The reality is that we drew but we could have scored more and were unlucky not to come out 5-2 on top. If we had converted a few more chances we could have gone further."