|First Division - Day 32|
Villarreal 5 - Athletic Bilbao 2
López Vallejo; Xavi Roca, Quique Alvarez, Ballesteros, Arruabarrena;
Jorge López (Pizzi 75'), Amor, Galca, Calleja (Cagna 66'); Guayre,
Víctor (Gracia 79'). 4-4-2.
Team changes: Villarreal: Xavi Roca, Ballesteros, Jorge López for Galván, Unai, Pizzi / Bilbao: Javi González, Oscar Vales, Del Horno, Carlos García, Gurpegui for Larrainzar, Lacruz, Aitor Ocio, Joseba Etxeberria, Tiko.
Athletic Bilbao were hit for a big score for the second week in a row, and their place in Europe for next season is now in jeopardy. Hit for six last week by Celta and with Tiko suspended and an extensive injury list which included Julen Guerrero, Joseba Exteberria and Yeste, Jupp Heynckes was forced to include B team midfielder Carlos Gurpegui in a much changed line up. Jorge López returned to Víctor Muñoz's side after a long period out through injury, and he and Víctor were the inspiration for the 'yellow submarine', the two taking advantage of a series of defensive errors for Víctor to beat Lafuente in the seventh minute of the game. It was the prelude to a record first half for a Villarreal team who have never beaten Athletic Bilbao in all their history, nor even scored a goal against them in an official competition at the Madrigal stadium. Quique Alvarez scored his first of the season heading home Víctor's corner, and Jorge López scored a third with just over a quarter of an hour gone. Bilbao did have a couple of chances, with López Vallejo saving from Ezquerro and Urzaiz, but Víctor made it four on the half hour mark and Guayre got a fifth goal before the break to make it eleven goals past Lafuente in a game and a half of football. And it could have been more if the keeper had not saved brilliantly from Guayre earlier on.
It was all too much for Heynckes, and he changed his two young full backs at the break, bringing on two more of his home-grown boys, Murillo and Aitor Ocio. For a while Villarreal kept up the pressure, and Turienzo Alvarez turned down a penalty appeal and disallowed a Calleja goal in the first quarter of an hour after the restart. But then Carlos García pulled one back with a tremendous shot from 30 metres, and in the next few minutes the referee gave the visitors a hand awarding them two penalties. Even then Larrazábal failed with the first, hitting the bar with his kick, and he left the next one to Urzaiz who got his third goal in consecutive games to make the score more respectable. It was still a disaster though, and the knives will be out next week when Barcelona visit the San Mames stadium. Villarreal breath a sigh of relief after getting their revenge for their elimination from the cup with their first win in eight games, and they rise back up the table to thirteenth place, albeit only three points above the relegation places. With Martin Palermo now back in light training Víctor Muñoz will be a happier man, although they still have a lot to do before the season ends to ensure their presence in the top flight next season.