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Villarreal's dazzling yellow submarine hits Europe

Villarreal continue to ruffle the feathers of Europe's elite clubs after an away goals win over Inter clinched a semi-final place.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 19:16 IST

Champions League debutants Villarreal continue to ruffle the feathers of Europe's elite clubs after an away goals win over Inter Milan clinched a semi-final place on Tuesday.

Defender Rodolfo Arruabarrena's second-half header, set up by fellow Argentine Juan Roman Riquelme, allowed the modest Primera Liga side to overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit and sparked wild celebrations in the small industrial town on Spain's Mediterranean coast.

"This is an historic day for Villarreal," said club president Fernando Roig. "What we are doing is tremendous achievement and we have to enjoy it."

Seven years ago Villarreal were languishing in the Spanish second division and they only enjoyed their first taste of European football when they played in the Intertoto Cup in 2002.

But since then they have made a name for themselves as one of the most compact, well organised and determined outfits in European football.

They won the Intertoto Cup in 2003 and 2004 and went on to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in their debut season in that competition in 2004 before losing to regional rivals and eventual winners Valencia.

Last year they made the quarter-finals of the same competition before a best ever third place in the Primera Liga behind Barcelona and Real Madrid earned them a place in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

There they disposed of Everton, and then saw off teams of the calibre of Manchester United and Lille in the group stage before eliminating Rangers in the first knockout round.

Their only defeat to date came in the quarter-final, first leg against Inter at the San Siro a week ago.

DREAM COME TRUE

"It is a dream come true," said Arruabarrena, who also scored the crcial goal against Rangers in the last round. "We are delighted because this is the result of a year of a lot of hard work and now we are getting the chance to enjoy it.

"It was another very important goal for me and I was lucky that it fell to me to score."

Once again the team known in Spain as the "yellow submarine" torpedoed one of Europe's big guns with a classy exhibition of patient possession football and disciplined defending.

Argentine playmaker Riquelme, whose career looked to be in terminal decline when he joined Villarreal from Barcelona back in 2003, proved he is one of the most talented midfielders in the game with another masterful performance.

The former Boca Juniors player pulled the strings in midfield, and fellow countrymen Juan Veron and Esteban Cambiasso were unable to shackle his meandering runs towards the Inter area.

It was a desperate challenge from Luis Figo on Riquelme that eventually gave the Spaniards the chance to break the deadlock at El Madrigal.

The Argentine clipped the resulting free kick into the area and Arruabarrena got the faintest of touches with his head to flick the ball over Inter keeper Francesco Toldo to give Villarreal a thoroughly deserved win.

Villarreal will now face either Arsenal or Juventus in the semi-finals. Given their record in this season's competition there is little danger of either side underestimating the danger from the "yellow submarine".