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Villarreal CF forward Nilmar sounded a note of caution despite a scintillating cameo appearance against Bayer 04 Leverkusen which swung the balance of this UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie firmly in favour of the Yellow Submarine.
The Brazilian international came off the bench to score twice, with his second goal four minutes into added time securing a 3-2 first-leg win, yet he warned that the German club are capable of surmounting the deficit at El Madrigal a week tonight. "Just as we beat them here, it's possible they could beat us at home," said Nilmar. "We have to be careful.
It's not over yet and there are still 90 minutes to play. We have made a good start and we have the advantage on our side."
If Nilmar's first goal, with virtually his first touch in the 70th minute, owed something to good fortune, his late winner showcased his talent and burgeoning self-belief. Sumptuously controlling Joan Oriol's ball forward, the 26-year-old former SC Internacional attacker had just one thing on his mind – slotting it past René Adler. "I feel really good having scored the goals," he said. "I also scored against Napoli in the previous round and I am in good form."
Also on target for Villarreal was Giuseppe Rossi, the player Nilmar had replaced. The Italian international cancelled out Michal Kadlec's opener with an accomplished strike three minutes before the interval – his seventh goal in nine UEFA Europa League games this season.
With Leverkusen forced to come out and attack in Spain, Rossi is convinced that will play into Villarreal's hands. "With us 3-2 ahead, they will have to try to play, they have to try to win," said the 24-year-old forward. "I think that will be good for us because we can look to score and hopefully make it tough for them. It's always nice to play in Europe and we really, really want to do well in Europe this year."
Those thinking Villarreal's passage to the quarter-finals is now a foregone conclusion would find plenty of dissenting voices in the Leverkusen camp, though – particularly as this was their first defeat since being beaten by runaway Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on 14 January.
I am optimistic and I believe we can win at Villarreal with a two-goal margin," said Leverkusen substitute Stefan Kiessling, who had a hand in his side's second goal. "We have to do it, and if we pull it off people will forget tonight. They didn't create many chances or have much of the play and we made three stupid mistakes, which they made the most of with cool heads."
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