Aug. 18, 2022 – Villarreal dominate the first leg of the Conference League play-offs, beating Hajduk 4:2 in Spain.
Villarreal and Hajduk met in Valencia, Spain on Thursday for a place in the Conference League group stage.
Hajduk has been waiting 12 years for a place in the group stage of European competition. Tonight they met last year’s Champions League semi-finalists and the previous season’s Europa League champions, knocking out Dinamo Zagreb en route to the title.
Villarreal were unbeaten in their last ten games and recorded wins against Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter. Villarreal are managed by Unai Emery, who managed Sevilla, PSG and Arsenal before Villarreal.
“Hajduk Split is a big name, it has a history and it commands maximum respect and admiration. I know that. Kalinić, Simić and Livaja are players who have an international reputation and are recognized all over the world. ‘Is important to I talk about Hajduk to my players with great respect,’ Emery said before the game.
It is estimated that over a thousand Hajduk supporters arrived in Valencia for Thursday night’s game.
Villarreal (4-4-2): Reina – De la Fuente, Mandi, Pau Torres, Pedraza – Chukwueze, Parejo, Capua, Baena – Morales, Jackson
Hajduk(3-5-2): Kalinić – Elez, Borevković, Awaziem – Mikanović, Grgić, Krovinović, Sahiti, Melnjak – Biuk, Livaja
Villarreal had their first chance of the game in the 2nd minute, but Chukuweze fired wide.
Not even a minute later, Hajduk hit back and shocked Villarreal. Livaja found Stipe Biuk, who ran into the penalty area at the perfect moment to put the ball in the back of the net for 0-1 Hajduk!
Melnjak and Livaja played a one-two in the 7th minute, which saw Melnjak get a shot, but he was saved by Villarreal goalkeeper Reina.
A dangerous situation in front of Kalinić’s goal in the 10th minute, but Mikanovic played it calmly for a Villarreal corner.
Livaja received a yellow card in the 13th minute, which is his second in this play-off.
Villarreal equalized in the 15th minute. Morales fired from 10 yards, controlled Kalinic and scored 1-1.
Three minutes later it was 2-1 for Villarreal with an own goal from Livaja.
A corner for Villarreal in the 22nd minute was cleared by the Hajduk defence.
Villarreal takes control of the game and dangerously attacks Hajduk’s half. Hajduk struggled to get hold of the ball.
Hajduk netted a corner in the 28th minute. The game ended with Krovinovic passing Melnjak in the box, who played goalkeeper. Hajduk replied within a minute and Krovinovic fired from around 20 yards after seeing Livaja was offside. Another hit went to Reina.
“Hajduceeee” was all you could hear from the Spanish stadium. Commentators said “Villarreal may be dominating the game, but Torcida are dominating the stands.”
Chukuweze tried to find Morales’ header in the 34th minute, but his attempt went over the goal. Two minutes later, Hajduk’s fragile defense left too much space for another goal. Morales scored 3-1 in the 36th minute.
Mikanović tackled Morales on the edge of the penalty area in the 41st minute for a Villarreal free kick that went out for Hajduk’s ball.
Villarreal were just too good for Hajduk in the first half and were in complete control of the game. Hajduk struggled to retain possession and relied on fast counters to attack.
A free-kick was awarded to Hajduk in the 44th minute, which came off Villarreal for a Hajduk corner. One minute of stoppage time was added at the end of the half. Villarreal capitalized on a quick counter. Moreno went 1v1 with Kalinic to score 4:1.
The second half started without any changes.
Hajduk kept possession in the opening minutes, and Biuk’s 47th-minute diagonal shot was deflected for a Hajduk corner.
Kalinic made a magnificent save on a Baena shot in the 54th minute.
Hajduk’s defense continued to leave Villarreal too much space.
Biuk dribbled through the box again and earned a corner for Hajduk in the 60th minute.
Pau Torres and Lo Celso came on for Pedraza and Moreno in the 62nd minute.
Villarreal became dangerous again in the minutes that followed, with a corner in the 65th minute.
Hajduk made his first substitutions in the 69th minute – Lovrecsics replaced Mikanovic and Mlakar for Sahiti. Morales was replaced by Jackson in the 73rd minute.
Two more changes for Hajduk came in the 78th minute – Fossati and Nikola Kalinic came on for Elez and Livaja.
The result didn’t matter – Torcida was still the loudest in the stadium.
A minute after Kalinic was substituted, he walked into a bad tackle with Mandi which resulted in what looked like a split cheek. Player Hajduk was covered in blood and Atanasov was substituted. Hajduk received a penalty which Fossati netted for 4:2 Hajduk in the 85th minute.
A free-kick was awarded to Hajduk two minutes later, which went for a corner. Hajduk still had minutes to score another goal and not concede one which would be huge ahead of next week’s game in Split.
Krovinovic hit the near post with his left foot in the 89th minute.
The referee added four minutes of stoppage time to the game. Neither team managed to score.
The second leg will be played on Thursday August 25 at a sold-out Poljud stadium.
“The next game should be easier to prepare for. The players can only improve by playing games like this. It started well for us, but we were naive and we could have reacted much better. J “I wish they didn’t score like that. We have to be better in Croatia,” said Hajduk coach Dambrauskas.
“We wanted to have better coverage in midfield because Villarreal are integrated in the middle and in space. Awaziem is a very calm player with the ball. I think he had a very good game,” said the Hajduk coach.
“You won’t believe what I’m about to tell you, but when you watch the next game, the atmosphere will be completely different, and our mentality will be different. With God’s help, anything can happen. We will focus on the next match, analyze the opponents and try to win.”
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