The Yellow Submarines have been brilliant in Europe this season, and they carried that fine form into their clash against the Gunners
Samuel Chukwueze delivered another fantastic performance to help Villarreal defeat Arsenal 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal faceoff at the Estadio de la Ceramica on Thursday.
Chukwueze was one of the biggest thorns in the flesh of Mikel Arteta’s men all evening as goals from Manuel Trigueros and Raul Albiol gave the Spanish side their 12th victory in 13 games on the continent this term.
The Nigerian winger has had more joy in the Europa League in recent weeks, and he was the catalyst behind the home side’s first goal.
With barely five minutes on the clock, Chukwueze showed extraordinary skills to dribble past a clutch of Arsenal defenders before laying it on for Trigueros to slam past goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
It was the 21-year-old forward’s fourth assist in the Europa League and his fifth goal contribution (three goals, two assists) in his last five matches. And that includes his stunning strike against Barcelona in a La Liga clash at the weekend.
Albiol volleyed home a second goal for Unai Emery’s men after half an hour as the home side took a two-goal lead into the break.
The night then got worse for the Gunners when Spanish international Dani Ceballos was sent off – his second yellow card of the game – shortly after the restart for a rough foul on Daniel Parejo.
And another one of Chukwueze’s brilliant movement on the ball could have made it three-nil to Villarreal, but Gerard Moreno could only direct a weak shot at Leno after good work from the Nigerian.
Bukayo Saka, however, came to Arsenal’s rescue in the 70th minute, when the winger of Nigerian descent earned a penalty off Trigueros, which Nicholas Pepe converted to reduce the visitors’ deficit.
Both sides would end the encounter with ten men each after the referee sent Etienne Capoue for an early shower with ten minutes left following a clumsy challenge on Saka.
It’s all to play for in the return leg at the Emirates Stadium next week when Chukwueze will look to guide Villarreal past Arsenal and to the first major cup final of his career.