Bergamo (Italy) : Needing a draw to advance into the next stage, Spanish side Villarreal edged past Italian club Atalanta 3-2 to become the last team to reach the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League.In a match postponed from Wednesday night due to heavy snow in Bergamo, Villarreal survived some anxious moments as the Italians came back from 0-3 down to make it 2-3 but in the end, their fightback on Thursday fell short and the Spanish club progressed to the knockout rounds of the top-tier European club competition.They joined 15 teams — Ajax Amsterdam (NED), Bayern Munich (GER), Juventus (ITA), Liverpool (ENG), LOSC Lille (FRA), Manchester City (ENG), Manchester United (ENG), Real Madrid (ESP) who all topped their respective groups and runners-ups, Atlético Madrid (ESP), Benfica (POR), Chelsea (ENG), Inter Milan (ITA), Paris Saint-Germain (FRA), Salzburg (AUT) and Sporting CP (POR).Villarreal needed a draw to finish second behind Manchester United in Group F and seal their place in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.They started the match with seven points from five games with Atalanta on six both trailing United, who were at 11 after a draw with Young Boys Wednesday. But Unai Emery’s men won 2-3 against a hard-working Atalanta side, who even at 0-3 down were still in the match.
Arnaut Danjuma (3, 51), with a double, and Étienne Capoue (42) scored Villarreal’s goals while Atalanta replied through Ruslan Malinovskyi (71) and Duvan Zapata (80).The match went Villarreal’s way from the start and they came out firing on all cylinders. In the third minute, Dani Parejo sent a fantastic pass to Danjuma, who was clinical and finished calmly through goalkeeper Juan Musso’s legs to score the first goal of the tie.
Atalanta continued to push forward despite going behind and were fired on by their fans. Villarreal goalkeeper Gero Rulli had to make a great save to deny Swiss midfielder Remo Freuler from the edge of the box.Villarreal were holding up well in defence and creating danger up front with Gerard Moreno getting involved in the middle of the pitch and Danjuma causing problems from long balls.The Dutchman was electric and caused the Italian side’s three centre-backs several problems. In the closing stages of the first half, a great piece of team play by Emery’s men ended in another goal. Capoue got on the end of a Moi Gomez low cross to fire an unstoppable shot into the back of the net.After half-time, manager Gian Piero Gasperini made two changes and Atalanta tried a last-ditch attempt to get back into the game with 45 minutes left.However, Danjuma soon made it 0-3, turning well into the box after a magnificent Gerard Moreno assist, to get his second of the game.Malinovskyi, with a powerful effort from the edge of the box, cut the lead, and the home side, cheered on by their fans, stepped up efforts to pull off a famous comeback. Atalanta got a second through Zapata, which meant the game was up for an uncertain thrilling end, with Gasperini’s side coming close on a number of occasions.However, Villarreal held on to the lead and managed the closing stages of the game well, thus qualifying for the next stage.