The six-goal thriller saw Jose Morales double for Villarreal, an own goal and Gerard Moreno netted another, while Hajduk Split got on the scoresheet thanks to an early goal from Stipe Biuk and a late goal from Marco Fossati.
Super Eagles players Samuel Chukwueze and Chidozie Awaziem lined up for both sides, with the former scoring for Villarreal’s third of the night and the latter picking up a yellow card.
Hajduk’s good start quickly canceled
Hajduk couldn’t have imagined a better start to the game as Biuk scored the opening goal in the second minute.
However, they failed to hold on to that advantage for that long as in the 14th minute the experienced Jose Luis Morales scored to equalize after skirting the right side of Hajduk’s defense and sending a deflected shot on goal.
Just five minutes later, Villarreal got the breakthrough with an own goal from Marko Livaja who tried to clear the ball past Gerardo Moreno, but in the process he got past his keeper for a 2-1.
Villarreal didn’t give up and looked for an increase in advantage, and they got it in the 36th minute. Chukwueze set Morales up, and the Spaniard who had plenty of space flicked the ball past Lovre Kalinic for his second of the night.
The first half then ended with a fourth goal for Unai Emery’s side, Gerard Moreno summed up a quick counterattack to get his name on the scoresheet.
Fossati softens defeat ahead of second leg
Villarreal weren’t as dangerous as they were in the 45s, and Hajduk punished that in the 85th minute.
Fossati converted a penalty won by Nikola Kalinic to soften the Croats’ defeat.
Although beating last year’s Champions League semi-finalists by two or more points will be a very difficult task for Valdas Dambrauskas’ side, they would have no choice but to do so when they will face Villarreal in the second leg next week.