Red Bull Salzburg showed signs of life in Spain against Villarreal but were ultimately defeated 2-1, sending them out of the UEFA Europa League in the round of 32. The loss follows a much better effort which saw Jesse Marsch's club take an early lead but fall to a far more experienced side.
"It's disappointing but we have to say strong," said Marsch after the game. "If we had two performances like today's, we would have had more of a chance. We have to learn from it and keep battling in the league and the cup."
Salzburg came into the game at a disadvantage having dropped the first leg of the fixture 2-0. The loss saddled the Austrian champions with two away-goals and placed pressure on the club to make less mistakes. Early in the game, they did just that. Patson Daka pounced on a bad pass and got the ball to Mergim Berisha. The young German didn't waste his chance, scoring the game's opening goal and giving his team the motivation they desperately needed.
Villarreal responded just before the half when midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic and goalkeeper Cican Stankovic collided when going after a ball. It left an opening for the Spaniard Paco Alcacer who easily put the ball into an empty net.
"We still believed we could do it," said defender Andre Ramalho. "They then closed up in the back, and in the end the small details decided it. It's a shame that we didn't manage it."
The final goal game in the 89th minute when a penalty sealed the deal for Villarreal and sent Salzburg home with an empty feeling after this European campaign. A gutsy effort to make it out of a difficult group in the UEFA Champions League gave way to a lackluster first round in the knockout stages of the Europa League. Marsch and his club were certainly looking for me.
The mission isn't over yet as the Austrian Cup is not solidly in Salzburg's grasp just yet. The club has two consecutive games against SK Sturm Graz both in the league and in the semi-final of the Austrian Cup. Wins in both should revive the team's confidence ahead of another European campaign next season.