Arsenal will go back to North London needing to overturn a 2-1 deficit to earn a place in the Europa League final.
Unai Emery’s Villarreal came shooting out the blocks to take the early lead inside the opening five minutes, and it was an uphill battle from then on.
We were struggling to deal with the threat of our rivals early on, and were causing little trouble at the other end of the pitch, and on the half-hour mark our troubles worsened.
A Villarreal corner was swung in from the left, and their player was able to lift himself unchallenged to knock the ball onto Raul Albiol at the backpost, who was also alone in space to poke home into the empty net.
We did look like we’d been given a lifeline shortly after their second, with the referee blowing up to award us a penalty, but VAR spotted a handball in the build-up.
We started the second half with more impetus, we was moving the ball around much better and working our way up the field, but within 15 minutes we were hit by another hammer blow.
Dani Ceballos was disciplined with a second-yellow card just before the hourmark after he trod on the defender who had played the ball away, and you can be for believing the worst at this point.
While there was little to be excited about in the following moments, Bukayo Saka’s picked up the ball on the edge of the box with less than 20 minutes to go and gets brought down. Penalty, and no reason for VAR to step in. Pepe sent the keeper diving as he played straight down the middle for 2-1.
We tried to build on our goal as we began to push further and further up the field, before our rivals then suffered their own second-yellow card offence to join us on 10 men.
We continued to try and resurrect the result, and in the dying moments I thought we’d made the breakthrough.
Thomas Partey looked to have carved out the perfect opportunity for Aubameyang to level the tie in injury time, but despite a nice turn into goal and a shot, the goalkeeper denied us.
2-1 after that 90 minutes is certainly nothing to complain about, and I can’t help but feel we will have the momentum going into the home leg.