The Nigerian international delivered an impressive shift as the Yellow Submarines ended the year on a winning note
Super Eagles winger Samuel Chukwueze saw 71 minutes of action as Villareal thumped Deportivo Alaves 5-2 in their final game of the year.
The Yellow Submarines have been on a roll since they lost to Barcelona at the beginning of December. They have won their last four games in all competitions, albeit one was against lower league side Salqueno, which they won 7-1.
The Europa League Champions approached their end of the year tie as huge favourites not just because of their form but also because their opponents were on a four-game winless streak.
For Chukwueze, he also looked to score his third consecutive goal for his side. As expected, Villareal started the game on the front foot, trying to explore open spaces.
It did not take long before they were rewarded for their labour, as in the 18th minute, hitman Gerard Moreno scored his third goal in two games to put his side ahead.
Despite going a goal down, Alaves did not show any oomph going forward, and they got punished again in the 32nd minute. Boulaye Dia struck a well-placed finish behind Fernando Pacheco to give Villarreal a two-goal cushion.
It turned out to be the wake-up call that the visitors needed, as they stepped up the tempo, even though Villareal still looked dangerous going forward with the likes of Chukwueze and Moreno looking to pounce on any defensive hiccup.
Just before the stroke of halftime, Pere Pons reduced Alaves’ deficit, firing home from close range.
This ensured that Villarreal coach Unai Emery had something to think about going into the break.
The second half started almost the same way as the first. Villarreal bossed the ball, but they lacked a bit of cutting edge.
But disaster struck for Unai Emery’s men in the 65th minute when Joselu equalised for Alaves after poor defending from Villareal.
The goal prompted a reaction from Emery, who took off the Chukwueze for Yeremi Pino in the 72nd minute.
Before he left the pitch, the Nigeria international had a 70 per cent pass accuracy, won five of his ten ground duels, and had two shots which were off target.
The tide soon changed for Villarreal, as four minutes after he left the game, Villarreal took the lead again through Dia.
Chukwueze’s replacement, Pino and Moreno, added to the goals to ensure that it ended 5-2 in favour of the Yellow Submarines at the Estadio de la Ceramica.