With Gerard Moreno as the flag, with the essence and good taste as always, under the direction of Unai Emery, the coach with the most titles —three, won with Sevilla— and the most experience in the Europa League —105 matches directed—, the Villarreal accesses a European semifinal for the fifth time in its history.
The yellow team beat Dinamo Zagreb from start to finish. Gerard Moreno, at 29 years old, is at his peak of maturity. It is his season and it could be for Villarreal who wants to reach his first final.
Villarreal did not speculate, with the intention from the beginning to solve the tie, monopolizing the ball against a conservative Dinamo, more ambitious in previous statements than starting on the field of play. The first yellow offensive actions had Chukwueze as the protagonist, the Nigerian harassed by two Croatian defenders each time he faced from the far right. Along with Chukwueze and Gerard Moreno, Alcácer, the only variant in the line-up with respect to the first leg in Zagreb, formed the Castellón forward, which forced the Balkan defenders to exercise caution.
Dinamo Zagreb was protected by trusting that Villarreal’s midfielders and attackers would not find spaces. And the Croats waited patiently for their moment. Backed by the result in Zagreb, Emery’s men were not bothered by Dinamo’s behavior, nor did they have the haste to rush. It was enough for them to maintain possession and wear down the rival, needing a great exercise of concentration so as not to be overcome by the yellow quality.
The left stick of Dinamo’s goal prevented Villarreal’s first goal after a Chukwueze volley after a strategic play on a corner kick. It was the first yellow warning. The Croatian team understood that it was not convenient to dedicate all their effort to the defensive task and, timidly, they began to look into Rulli’s area. It was counterproductive for those in Zagreb. Villarreal, with more spaces, surprised Dinamo. Gerard Moreno started from the midfielder and sent an inside pass to the far right at the right moment where Chukwueze struck to give the ball to Paco Alcácer, who only had to push the ball into the net. The play was invalidated by offside, later denied by the VAR. In the 37th minute, the goal rose to the scoreboard.
The plan of Damir Kznar, Dynamo coach, was beginning to unravel. He sighed that few things happened in the green, that the match reached the last quarter of an hour with a zero draw and launch the Croatian total offensive in the last stretch. The aspirations of the coach and the Croatian team were completely diluted before the break. Raúl Albiol started an adventure into the Dinamo area and the center of the Valencian center-back from the baseline was finally finished off by Gerard Moreno after a first attempt by Alcácer. A new goal from Gerard, the sixth in the Europa League, the 25th so far this season. Villarreal had the semifinals more than outlined in the absence of the second half.
In the second act, Dinamo went for everything and each attack received the yellow reply. And with a quarter of an hour to go, Orsic put a bit of excitement into the game with a great goal. Neither one had more aim to change the score and the dynamics of the tie. This was for Villarreal reaching their fifth European semifinal. With Gerard Moreno in a state of grace and Unai Emery in the direction.