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Villarreal's class shines through against PAOK

Villarreal CF 1-0 PAOK FC
Marco Ruben put a clinical finishing touch to the game's classiest move to send Villarreal above their visitors and to the Group D summit.

Santi Cazorla and Nabil El Zhar vie for the ball at El Madrigal
Santi Cazorla and Nabil El Zhar vie for the ball at El Madrigal ©Getty Images

Villarreal CF leapfrogged PAOK FC at the top of UEFA Europa League Group D with a 1-0 victory over the Greek side.

PAOK, under the caretaker charge of Makis Havos following Pavlos Dermitzakis' departure at the weekend, began the day top of the section but are now two points adrift of Villarreal. Third from bottom in the Greek Super League, the visitors were outplayed for large swathes of the game and were ultimately undone by Marco Ruben's superb goal before half-time.

Having drawn six of their last eight European fixtures it was little surprise PAOK emerged cautiously. Villarreal, second in the Spanish Liga, adopting a similarly guarded approach was less expected. After 38 minutes of uninspired, unimaginative and watchful fare, Juan Carlos Garrido's side finally showed their true colours; Borja Valero provided the pass, Giuseppe Rossi the intuitive dummy and Marco Ruben the drilled finish. Much more like it.

The half-time whistle halted any momentum Villarreal were threatening to build, though PAOK were as bereft of ideas as might be expected of a team with just four goals from six league games. They were in need of a Rossi of their own and the Italy forward again showed his worth to the hosts on 63 minutes, drifting inside and laying on Marco Ruben with a cute pass. The No9 could only poke into Dario Kresic's midriff.

Giorgos Fotakis's low drive soon after was at last a significant effort from PAOK but not until Vladimir Ivić's dipping volley and Nabil El Zhar's swerving shot was Diego López's goal under any notable threat. Sensing new-found confidence among the visitors, the Yellow Submarine battened down the hatches and went close to adding a soothing second through Cani.