Villarreal CF are keeping their feet on the ground despite recording impressive home and away victories against a Bayer 04 Leverkusen side who are themselves enjoying a terrific Bundesliga season.
The Spanish side followed up last week's 3-2 win at the BayArena with a 2-1 success at their El Madrigal home yet, far from dreaming of a place in the UEFA Europa League final in Dublin, post-match there was little more than caution, emphasis on basic values and respect for Jupp Heynckes' defeated Leverkusen. "To go through against difficult opponents signifies that our two performances have been excellent and this display tonight was brilliant," Santi Cazorla told UEFA.com.
The Spain midfielder opened the scoring in the 33rd minute of the second leg, finishing assuredly after a delightful one-two on the edge of the penalty area with Giuseppe Rossi. Cazorla repaid the compliment for the Italian international to drive in what proved to be the winner on the night just past the hour, yet he is adamant Villarreal have achieved nothing yet, adding: "
It's all very well defeating powerful rivals like Leverkusen but there are still quarter and semi-finals to go before you can reach your objective of the final. This is a long tournament where now only difficult opponents lie in wait – Porto, PSV and Benfica. Getting one step closer to achieving something important really motivates us."
Leverkusen defender Sami Hyypiä was a UEFA Cup winner with Liverpool FC in 2001, but the 37-year-old had few complaints after his latest foray into European competition came to an end in the last 16. "The best team won tonight," the Finnish international told UEFA.com. "If you give a quality side like Villarreal space and time like we did tonight then their quick strikers will always take advantage.
"They've proved they are high quality in this match," added Hyypiä, who nevertheless feels his side – second in the Bundesliga, nine points behind Borussia Dortmund but five clear of third-placed Hannover 96 with eight games to go – have plenty still to play for. "I
t's not easy to go out of a tournament which we felt we had a chance of winning but we have a league game coming up on which we have to focus and win."
The theme of not allowing European exploits to overshadow league form was echoed by Villarreal's Nilmar, scorer of two first-leg goals including a last-minute winner. "Confidence is a huge part of playing as well as we did in this tie and in the Europa League that’s going fine," said the Brazilian, whose side have won only one of their last seven league games to slip down to fourth place. "In the Liga we keep dropping our level a little bit. We need to move on, calmly, and try to play as well as we did against Leverkusen when we return to facing domestic rivals."
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