Brazilian brilliance was at the heart of a thrilling 2-2 draw for German champions VfL Wolfsburg at El Madrigal, where two goals from Grafite looked to have won them the game until Marcos Ruben's late leveller for Villarreal CF.
That final twist will leave the Yellow Submarine relieved ahead of the return leg next Thursday, but having taken the lead through Marcos Senna before the break, they will regret shipping what could prove costly goals. They also lost Iván Marcano to an 83rd-minute red card for his part in conceding the penalty from which Grafite fired his second and will miss the now-suspended defender in Germany – where thanks to Ruben they will feel they have a fighting chance.
His goal meant Villarreal ended with a flourish, but they could have been out of the tie within the first 23 minutes as Wolfsburg spurned three outstanding opportunities. The first, and best, stemmed from a scintillating run down the right touchline by Peter Pekarík. The 23-year-old's cross was practically on the goal line but Grafite scooped the ball over the bar. Four minutes later, Edin Džeko slid a perfect pass to Sascha Riether, who mis-hit his left-footed effort, and the hat-trick of chances culminated with Džeko angling a shot wide of the far post.
The hosts finally roused when Senna applied power and precision to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Riether's foul on Robert Pirès earned him a booking in the 42nd minute, and from the resultant free-kick Senna crashed the ball past Marwin Hitz. The Spaniards were playing with purpose now and Nilmar and Joan Capdevila peppered Hitz's goalmouth with shots, while Senna looked like he could boss midfield all night. It proved to be an illusion, though, and with 25 minutes remaining Josué pressed the Spanish international into an error, allowing Grafite to seize on the loose ball and thrash a wonderful shot past Diego López. The Brazilian striker was not finished there either, but it was Ruben who had the last word.