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Villarreal Reach Europa League Semi-Finals

Villarreal booked their place in the Europa League semi-finals last night after coming from behind to beat ten-man FC Twente.

Michel Preud’homme’s side were given hope by a delightful first-half effort by Emir Bajrami, but the 58th-minute dismissal of Dwight Tiendalli, and Giuseppe Rossi’s subsequent penalty, effectively ended any prospect of an unlikely rally from the hosts. Bart Buysse then upended substitute Hernán Pérez with six minutes remaining, enabling Marco Ruben to score from the spot before Cani added gloss to the scoreline in the final seconds.

The tie was already tipped heavily in the visitors’ favour following their 5-1 first-leg success, which perhaps explained Twente’s early caution. The Tukkers had just Bajrami’s 14th-minute shot, comfortably parried by Diego López, to show for their superior possession in the first half-hour, but took the lead in style when Theo Janssen returned Bryan Ruiz’s pass with an impudent back-heel, enabling the Costa Rican to set up Bajrami for a fine opener.

Twente sprung to life, Janssen firing a free-kick just wide and Bajrami showing great skill to turn two defenders before fizzing a low centre across the area, which Ruiz and Marc Janko each missed by an outstretched foot. After the break, though, Villarreal upped the tempo, Rossi leaving a trail of defenders in his wake before forcing Sander Boschker into his first save of the night.

There was nothing the Twente veteran could do about the equaliser, which Rossi calmly slotted in from the penalty spot following Tiendalli’s foul on Wakaso Mubarak. The defender was dismissed for the challenge and although the hosts battled gamely, they conceded another spot kick, which Ruben coolly converted, when Buysse brought down Pérez.

There was still time for another goal when Cani turned smartly to send a lethal volley past Boschker, earning Villarreal an 8-2 aggregate win, and a mouthwatering semi-final contest with FC Porto on 28 April and 5 May.

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