Midfielder Dani Parejo again came to the rescue of Villarreal’s misfiring forwards, scoring in a 1-0 win on Saturday over Celta Vigo in the last game before Unai Emery’s side face Juventus in a Champions League showdown.
The Spanish league win followed a defeat at Osasuna that had ended a five-match unbeaten run for Villarreal.
Parejo also scored two weeks ago to help Villarreal fight back for a 1-1 home draw with Juventus in the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup. The second leg is on Wednesday in Turin.
Villarreal is one of the top-scoring teams in the Spanish league this season, but they wasted several chances against Celta before Parejo broke through.
Parejo struck the 65th-minute winner after Manuel Trigueros set him up with an exquisite pass with his back to his fellow midfielder.
“I don’t know if he saw me or not, but I saw the space and he gave me a great ball that I managed to put in,” Parejo said. “We kept a clean sheet, scored a goal. We are happy because we leave with good feelings for what is coming next week.”
Villarreal needed goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli to make two quality saves in the second half. And, when Santi Mina finally had steered a goal-bound shot past Rulli in stoppage time, there was defender Aissa Mandi to deftly swing his boot high enough to make a critical stop.
Villarreal moved into sixth place in the Spanish league. Celta remained 10th.
Elsewhere, Dani Gómez equalized with 10 minutes remaining to salvage a 1-1 home draw for last-place Levante against Espanyol.
After going the entire first half of the season — a full 19 rounds — without a victory, Levante have shown signs of life recently after only one loss in thier last four games. They remain six points from safety.
Elche won 1-0 at Granada to ruin the debut of caretaker coach Rubén Torrecilla, who stepped in for the fired Robert Moreno.
Valencia drew 0-0 at Getafe.
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