Hajduk drops out of UEFA Europa Conference League after play-off loss to Villarreal

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Aug. 25, 2022 – Hajduk dropped out of the UEFA Europa Conference League 2-6 on aggregate against Villarreal. The Split club lost 0-2 to Poljud on Thursday night.

Hajduk and Villarreal met in the second leg of the Conference League play-offs at a sold-out Poljud Stadium on Thursday. In the first match, Villarreal won 4-2 at Valencia, meaning Hajduk needed to score three goals to stand a chance.

Villarreal are one of the best teams in Europe and were definitely the favorites to go forward. The Spanish club were Champions League semi-finalists last year and Europa League champions the season before, knocking out Dinamo Zagreb en route to the title.

Hajduk had faced Spanish clubs five times so far in European competitions but failed to top them.

“It will be a tough test because Villarreal like to control the game and have possession of the ball. We have to be patient and focused for the 90 minutes and pay attention to the small details,” Hajduk coach Valdas Dambrauskas said before the match.

“In this beautiful stadium, we expect a good atmosphere in which we will try to manage the match,” said Villarreal coach Unai Emery.

Compositions

HAJDUK: Kalinić – Mikanović, Awaziem, Elez, Melnjak – Grgić, Fossati – Sahiti, Krovinović, Biuk – Livaja

VILLARREAL: Reina – Kiko, Mandi, Cuenca, Pedraza – Chukwueze, Parejo, Coquelin, Baena – Lo Celso, Nicolas

Match report

Villarreal had their first attack in the 2nd minute, which came out for a goal kick. Melnjak played a hospital ball to a Villarreal player at the top of the box. Kalinic luckily saved the shot, but Hajduk fouled on the next game. A Villarreal free-kick found Baena’s header, which went over the post.

The first five minutes were fragile for Hajduk, who played nervously.

A quick counter from Awaziem found Sahiti on the right and came out for Hajduk’s first corner. The ball was played through the Villarreal defense and returned by Sahiti, who found Livaja’s header. Marko just missed the post.

Another attack for Hajduk came in the 10th minute and Fossati managed to get a shot which was blocked.

Another shaky instance in Hajduk’s defense came a minute later and was thankfully cleared by Melnjak.

Another brilliant attack from Hajduk in the 14th minute saw Livaja get a shot which was deflected for a corner. Krovinovic found Livaja, whose one-touch shot went over the goal.

Sahiti dribbled through the Villarreal defense on the next game and shot at the keeper. Livaja tried to lob the keeper from the halfway line in the 16th minute. And he hit another rocket that went just wide of the far post on the next play.

Mikanovic received a yellow card in the 19th minute.

Villarreal attempted a quick counter in the 22nd minute but fired straight at Kalinic. Hajduk replied and Biuk got a shot which was deflected towards Reina.

Hajduk was hungry and had another corner in the 25th minute, followed by another afterwards.

Villarreal started to possess the ball and tried to move into the box. Nicolas’ sophisticated footwork couldn’t outrun Hajduk’s defense.

A free kick from Hajduk in the 30th minute was played short to Biuk on the left. The young midfielder cut in the middle and went down for a foul, but the referee said to continue. Hajduk’s next attack was ruled offside.

A dangerous free kick for Villarreal in the 34th minute was taken past the corner spot. Luckily, the ball went straight to Kalinic.

But minutes later, Pedraza had his chance, playing around Hajduk’s defense with no one in the block. He fired wide into Kalinic’s goal for 0:1 Villarreal. Hajduk’s hope had dwindled.

A free kick from Livaja in the 41st minute was fired from around 30 yards out and went just wide of the post. The first half ended 0:1 for Villarreal.

Villarreal made a substitution to start the second half – Capoue continued for Coquelin. Hajduk made no changes.

A dangerous chance for Villarreal came in the 47th minute, which was blocked by the Hajduk defence. A remarkable save from Kalinic in the 51st minute prevented Villarreal from going ahead by two goals.

Another Villarreal attack in the next minute came out for a corner. Hajduk managed to clear all dangerous plays and tried to calmly move the ball into Villarreal’s half but couldn’t get a shot.

On the next attack, Chukwueze’s shot slipped past Kalinic and into the goal for 0-2 Villarreal. Hajduk would now need 4 goals to bring the game into overtime.

Villarreal made substitutions in the 58th minute – Moreno replaced Jackson and Morales for Lo Celso.

Hajduk made his first substitutions in the 59th minute – Lovrencsics replaced Mikanovic and Mlakar for Sahiti.

Fossati was replaced by Vukovic in the 65th minute.

Mlakar had a great chance to score a minute later but narrowly missed the far post.

Krovinovic was fouled in the corner of the penalty area in the 71st minute. The same player took the free kick, which went out for a goal kick.

Hajduk netted a free kick and a corner in the 75th minute with no possibility of a goal.

Pau Torres replaced Pedraza and Foyth for Kiko in the 79th minute. Colina replaced Melnjak and Simic for Elez in the same minute.

There were no dangerous chances for either team in the final 10 minutes. The referee added 3 minutes of stoppage time, during which no one scored.

Hajduk therefore dropped out of the UEFA Europa Conference League.

Post-match comments

Villarreal coach Unai Emery

“We played against a team that is good today but also has a rich past. The atmosphere created by the fans was special and we enjoyed it. I’m sorry that a team like Hajduk is excluded from the European competition. With that kind of atmosphere and fans, it deserves to be in the European competition. I must repeat that in the first game we made several mistakes, and now we managed to improve some things that we had made in the first game at a lower level. This is Europe, we have to be focused and happy with this kind of game.”

Valdas Dambrauskas, Hajduk coach

“I can’t fault the players. We were ready and better than in the first game. The class difference between us and Villarreal is too big, especially in two games. We look to Osijek, who for us is like the final, won’t be easy, but we have to concentrate. We showed a level that we can be proud of, but we have to improve,” said Dambrauskas.

“A big thank you to the fans for their support during and after the game. It’s a big responsibility. I’m not afraid to say it, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but we really have the best supporters in this game. “Europe. We really do. Someone compares us to Napoli and Marseille, but we’re not even the first in Croatia, we don’t play in the European League or the Conference League, and we have such support. The players and we are very proud to have this kind of support.”

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