VINTAGE. Villarreal's great semifinal

The 'yellow' team reached Champions League semifinal in 2005-06

VINTAGE. Villarreal's great semifinal
VINTAGE. Villarreal's great semifinal

The 'yellow' team reached Champions League semifinal in 2005-06

Juan Roman Riquelme & Jens Lehman
Juan Roman Riquelme & Jens Lehman

| ©Getty Images #57421254

This season Villarreal is playing Copa semifinals for the first time. But this match against Barça won't be the most important semifinals of their history. In 2006 they reached Champions League semifinals, against Arsenal, and were eliminated by Arsène Wenger's team.

First leg match

On 19 April 2006 Villarreal made his debut in a Champions League semi-final stage at the legendary historic Arsenal stadium, Highbury Park. The team, then coached by Pellegrini, had on Juan Román Riquelme (player transferred from Barça) the key reference in the field, but they also had the striker Forlan or former Barça players Quique Alvarez and Juan Pablo Sorin.

On the other side, an impressive Arsenal with 3 future Barça players (Cesc Fabregas, Aliaksandr Hleb and Thierry Henry; Alex Song was left on the bench) and historic footballers like Jens Lehmann or Robert Pires, Emmanuel Eboué and Mathieu Flamini. That day, Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie were substitutes.

Villarreal could not win but the scorer was encouraging: 1 - 0, with a solitary goal by Kolo Toure (brother of Yaya Touré).

Second leg

Menys d'una setmana més tard, el 25 d'abril, es va jugar la tornada al Madrigal. 2 alineacions molt semblants a les del partit d'anada i un enfrontament agònic a la gespa.

Less than a week later, on April 25, they played the second leg at the Madrigal. 2 similar lineups and dying clash on the grass.

In the minute 82 Pellegrini replaced the defense Arruabarrena to place a really classy midfielder: former Barcelona player Roger Garcia. However, they reached the 90th minute with no goals (0-0).

It was at that moment that the Russian referee Valentin Ivanov whistled a penatly against Arsenal for a foul on former Blaugrana José Mari. Riquelme, grabbed the ball and kicked to the left of the goal. Jens Lehmann, the German goalkeeper, guessed the intention of the Argentine and he stopped the ball, avoiding overtime. Disappointment at Villarreal was monumental. Riquelme was knocked-out, and once the match was over, he watched the goal for a while.

Arsenal eliminated Villarreal and went to the Champions League final. A match that was played in Paris against Frank Rijkaard's Barça, with Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Xavi, Puyol... and Belletti! But that is another story.

By the way, here you can see a brief report of Canal + about Riquelme's penalty kick: