Villarreal landed a stunning blow on their potential rivals for a European qualification berth when Giovani dos Santos and Ikechukwu Uche each struck twice in a 5-1 drubbing of Real Sociedad in La Liga on Monday.
The resounding victory for the team known as el Submarino Amarillo (the yellow submarine) lifted them above Sociedad into fifth on 34 points at the halfway stage of the season, two ahead of the San Sebastian-based side and two behind fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao.
Villarreal produced a brilliant display of attacking soccer at El Madrigal, with former Tottenham Hotspur forward Dos Santos on scintillating form.
It was the latest evidence that they deserve to be among the elite of Spanish soccer after spending a year in the second division last term.
Mexico’s Dos Santos fired them ahead in the 17th minute, before crossing for Nigerian Uche to make it 2-0 in the 27th.
Dos Santos, a product of Barcelona’s academy who has had stints at Ipswich Town, Galatasaray and Real Mallorca, grabbed his second six minutes later, as Sociedad were swept aside by the home side’s intensity and attacking verve.
Uche completed his double from another Dos Santos assist 10 minutes into the second and Moises Gomez added a fifth in the 58th, before Imanol Agirretxe pulled one back for Sociedad on the hour.
Villarreal had not won at home since the end of October last year and the victory will give them a boost for their next game tomorrow, when they host Sociedad again in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.
Last week’s first leg in San Sebastian ended 0-0 and the winners of the tie will play UD Almeria or Racing Santander — the only third-tier side left in the tournament — in the quarter-finals.
Financially troubled Racing headed to their last-16 second leg at Almeria yesterday seeking a much-needed boost after last week’s first leg in Santander, which ended 1-1, was disrupted when a group of disgruntled fans tried to storm the VIP tribune.
Police have launched an investigation in to the incident after a security guard required stitches for a head wound sustained in the scuffles.
The home team also staged a brief protest over unpaid wages by standing still for about 10 seconds after kickoff and only began playing when their opponents obligingly put the ball into touch.
Racing have fallen on desperately hard times since they were taken over in January 2011 by Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, who set out his vision of a bright future for the north coast club.
Ali Syed, founder and chairman of investment company Western Gulf Advisory, said Racing could become a “third force” in Spain to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However, they were relegated from La Liga at the end of the 2011-2012 season after finishing 10 points adrift at the bottom of the table. Ali Syed then disappeared from view and the club’s crisis deepened as they dropped down to the third tier at the end of last term.
The future looked bleak after a capital increase in October last year designed to save them from ruin flopped and they remain mired in bankruptcy proceedings.
Club president Angel Lavin, the target of last week’s protests, has pledged to do all he can to rebuild a team like the one that qualified for Europe when they finished sixth in La Liga in 2007-2008.
“I have the soul of a sailor and I have to be the last person to abandon ship,” Lavin said last week as he condemned those behind the attack on club officials.