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Two for Bakambu as Villarreal beat Sparta

Villarreal 2-1 Sparta 
Cédric Bakambu struck twice, but an away goal and a succession of missed chances may leave Marcelino's side feeling short-changed.

First-leg highlights: Bakambu downs Sparta Praha
  • Cédric Bakambu gets opportunistic opener for Villarreal early on
  • Jakub Brabec leveller punishes profligate finishing from home side
  • Bakambu strikes again to secure Villarreal's sixth straight European home win
  • Sparta beaten for first time in 13 UEFA Europa League games this season
  • Second leg is next Thursday, with semi-final draw the following day

Cédric Bakambu scored one by luck and one by judgement as Villarreal laboured to claim a UEFA Europa League quarter-final advantage against Sparta Praha.

Inside three minutes, Bakambu was rewarded for chasing down David Bičík when the goalkeeper's attempted clearance cannoned back into the net off the striker's outstretched leg. Marcelino's team were queuing up to miss chances thereafter, Samuel Castillejo, Roberto Soldado and Bakambu all passing up more than one, as Bičík redeemed himself with a string of saves.

Jakub Brabec equalised for Sparta
Jakub Brabec equalised for Sparta©AFP/Getty Images

Making it to half-time 1-0 down would have been a major achievement for Sparta; as it was, they levelled too, Jakub Brabec holding his ground to head Bořek Dočkal's corner past Sergio Asenjo in first-half added time. It was the first goal Villarreal had conceded at home in this UEFA Europa League campaign.

Mario Gaspar's header glanced off the bar moments after the restart, but Bakambu's composure returned just after the hour, the forward picking his spot from the edge of the box after Denis Suárez's lay-off. Once more, enough opportunities came Villarreal's way to substantially extend their lead. How costly will those misses prove next week?

Bakambu in the spotlight
The French-born DR Congo ace earned his luck for Villarreal's opener by doggedly chasing down the Sparta goalkeeper, and produced a tidy finish for his second – his seventh in this season's competition. However, the 24-year-old will be well aware that the match ball should have been his, having passed up presentable opportunities either side of the interval.

David Bičík (right) made some fine saves
David Bičík (right) made some fine saves©AFP/Getty Images

Bičík finds redemption
On the day after he turned 35, David Bičík gave away a gift, dawdling in possession before blasting a clearance off Bakambu and into his own net. However – just as he did in the 3-0 win at Lazio in the round of 16 – the Sparta custodian saved his team again and again, making key blocks from Castillejo, Bakambu, Soldado and Suárez.

Sparta's luck running out?
Zdeněk Ščasný's side have exceeded all expectations to get this far, but this tie should have been all over by half-time given the number of chances Villarreal squandered. However, bookings for Brabec and Costa before the break triggered one-match suspensions for two key defenders – a handicap which will weigh heavy on the Czech club in the second leg.

©Getty Images
©AFP/Getty Images
©AFP/Getty Images