European-bound Sevilla, Villarreal battle to goalless draw
MAY 04, 2014 6:15p ET
Marcelino's Villarreal side went into the game two places behind Europa League finalists Sevilla, and five points behind sixth-placed Real Sociedad, knowing they could claw back valuable ground in their own bid to snatch a European place.
But Sevilla, who will play Benfica in the Europa League final in 10 days' time, proved a tough nut to crack despite returning to action only four days after their semi-final heroics against Valencia.
The game started off at a frenetic pace, with both sides trying their luck from distance inside the opening 10 minutes.
Vitolo tested Sergio Asenjo early doors with a shot from 20 yards, but the Villarreal keeper was equal to it.
Then Sevilla's Stephane Mbia and Villarreal's Giovani Dos Santos both tried to pull off spectacular long-range volleys with neither finding the target.
The Yellow Submarine crafted the first clear-cut chance in the 27th minute as Giovani unleashed a right-footed effort from the edge of the box that Javi Varas, deputising for the rested Beto, had to tip over the bar.
At the other end Vitolo signed off the first half's last meaningful attempt on goal by drilling a right-footed shot from six yards that was blocked by Asenjo.
Unai Emery shuffled his battle-weary Sevilla pack at half time, bringing on former Arsenal forward Jose Antonio Reyes as he looked for a win in his club's penultimate home game of the season.
But if anything it was Villarreal who took control after the break, with Mateo Musacchio missing from close range and Jaume Costa trying his luck from 20 yards as Varas saved comfortably.
Both sides ended a run of two straight league defeats as they played out the stalemate, but Villarreal will be the ones left frustrated as Emery looks ahead to the Europa League showpiece.