By Graham Hunter at El Madrigal
Villarreal CF's remarkable first season in European competition continued as goals in either half from Sonny Anderson and Roger García sealed a 3-1 aggregate victory against Celtic FC and a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup.
Big names beaten
The UEFA Intertoto Cup winners, who had already defeated Galatasaray SK and AS Roma on their way to the last eight, built on last week's 1-1 draw at Parkhead to remove the 2003 finalists and set up a meeting with fellow Spanish side Valencia CF in the final four.
There was bad news for Celtic before kick-off as Chris Sutton's groin ruled him out, necessitating a tactical reshuffle. Martin O'Neill abandoned his 3-5-2 formation, thereby denying the visitors the width needed to provide their usual barrage of crosses.
Ironically, identical tactics enabled Villarreal to take a sixth-minute lead. José Mari Romero flicked the ball down to Juliano Belletti and the right-back lifted a looping cross towards the penalty area. Neither Bobo Balde nor Stanislav Varga dealt with the flight of the ball and Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson easily nipped between them to cushion his header over David Marshall in the Celtic goal.
With both sides fielding four in midfield, space was at a premium, but Juan Riquelme benefited from the absence of Celtic's wing-backs. From the Argentinian playmaker's crafty chip José Mari held off Balde, only for the Spanish striker to lose his balance as he tried to turn the ball into the gaping goal. Riquelme himself almost capitalised on a misunderstanding between Varga and Neil Lennon in the 18th minute, but shot wide.
Although the home side were in control, Celtic finally created a chance on the half-hour as Larsson crossed for Liam Miller to volley over, and that seemed to galvanise the visitors. For the remainder of the half, Celtic played with much more control and invention, and were unfortunate not to equalise.
Larsson came more into the game, and 13 minutes before the interval it was the Swedish striker's inventiveness that allowed McNamara to cross for Stephen Pearson but, unchallenged, the midfield player headed over.
Both sides had further chances before half-time, with Joos Valgaeren's shot blocked by José Reina while Anderson almost scored his second of the night as Balde again failed to cut out a Belletti cross, but this time the striker glanced his header wide.
Villarreal were working tirelessly to deny Celtic time and space, but the visitors created a fine chance moments after half-time when Didier Agathe crossed to the back post from the right touchline and Valgaeren nodded back across Reina – only to see his header drift past the post.
The game became ragged as the stakes got higher and a late challenge from Pearson on Rodolfo Arruabarrena led to a yellow card for the Celtic player. Arruabarrena's own subsequent yellow card means he will miss the semi-final first leg.
More likely scorers
The Spanish side continued to look the more likely scorers, and on the hour only a superbly timed tackle by Balde on Anderson prevented the forward from doubling Villarreal's lead. The goal did arrive eight minutes later, however, with Anderson again instrumental. The ball broke for the Brazilian on the left of the Celtic box and he delivered a deep cross which Valgaeren failed to cut out. Roger was on hand to sweep the ball past Marshall with a resounding left-foot volley and end Celtic's hopes.