Villarreal's Champions League run sinks another top side as Bayern Munich waste key chances
MUNICH, Germany -- The Allianz Arena speakers blared "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "The Show Must Go On" as soon as the final whistle blew on Bayern Munich's Champions League hopes for another season, but they wouldn't have heard either of those mournful songs in the tiny section housing the Villarreal supporters.
They were too busy celebrating their team's 2-1 aggregate win which sealed a place in the Champions League semifinals. Once again, Unai Emery's remarkable side had shocked a European superpower. Last week's 1-0 victory over Bayern at El Madrigal was followed by a 1-1 draw here in Germany, earning the "Yellow Submarine" a semifinal date against either Liverpool or Benfica.
Leading 3-1 from the first-leg in Lisbon, Liverpool are almost certain to confirm themselves as Villarreal's opponents in the last four when they host the return against the Portuguese team at Anfield on Wednesday.
Even the most cautious Liverpool supporter will be celebrating Villarreal's progression -- as poor as Bayern Munich were over the two legs, they are still the six-time tournament winners and perennial Bundesliga champions. And Villarreal are what they have always been, a team that punches way above their weight.
They are a club from a town with a population of just 51,000 -- less than half the capacity of Barcelona's Camp Nou -- and had never won a major trophy until last season's dramatic penalty shoot-out win against Manchester United in the Europa League final in Gdansk, Poland.
That victory earned Villarreal the final spot in this season's Champions League and they have certainly made the most of it. Emery's team stunned Juventus in Turin to eliminate the Italian giants in the Round of 16 and they have now beaten Bayern.
"If you want to achieve something in this competition you need to beat the big teams," Emery said. "We took the first step [in the last 16] with Juventus. With Bayern we analysed the game well."
For Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann, no matter what he achieves domestically this season, his first year as Bayern coach will be deemed unsuccessful because of this result, something he even admitted.
"We are out of the German Cup, out of the Champions League. I don't think this is good enough for Bayern. We had the semifinals as our minimum goal and we failed to achieve it," Nagelsmann said. "It counts as one of my top three defeats."
But Villarreal keep rolling on. In less than 12 months, this small club from a tiny town in northeastern Spain has beaten Manchester United, Juventus and Bayern Munich -- iconic clubs with 11 Champions League titles between them.
So Liverpool -- if it turns out to be Jurgen Klopp's team -- should be wary of under-estimating Villarreal because they are a side that are exceptionally well-drilled and organised. They are hard-working and committed and they have a taste for upsetting European football royalty.