VIENNA – Villarreal played to a 0-0 draw Thursday night against Rapid Vienna, a Europa League group-stage match in which the Spanish-league club seemed lost on attack but put up a solid wall defensively.
Both teams had excellent scoring chances at Allianz Stadion, with the La Liga club nearly taking the lead in the 15th minute on a shot by Alfonso Pedraza that ricocheted off a defender and over the crossbar.
A few minutes later, Italian forward Nicola Sansone failed to convert in a one-on-one opportunity against Vienna goalkeeper Richard Strebinger.
Although Villarreal seemed in control and on the verge of scoring against a Rapid side that seemed out-of-sorts defensively, the inconsistency that has plagued the team this season reared its head.
The hosts gradually took control of the game after the half-hour mark of the first half and had several solid opportunities to take the lead in the second half, the best of which came in the 53rd minute on a rapid attack off a dead ball.
On the play, Norwegian forward Veton Berisha sent a cross in from the right side that Andrija Pavlovic received on one bounce and directed toward the left post.
The play nearly worked to perfection, but the Serbian forward’s shot had a bit too much sidespin and barely went wide of the upright.
Pavlovic had a second chance just four minutes later when the defender marking him fell to the ground in the area, but Villarreal keeper Andres Fernandez managed to snuff out the one-on-one opportunity.
Villarreal’s defenders also got in on the act, with Ramiro Funes Mori using his body to deflect away a dangerous volley in the 67th minute.
Both sides pressed forward over the last 20 minutes, but strong play by both Fernandez and Strebinger kept the match scoreless.
Despite playing to its third draw in four matches thus far in its Europa League campaign, Villarreal is currently in first place in Group G with six points, one ahead of both Spartak Moscow and Scottish club Rangers and two clear of Rapid with a pair of round-robin matches remaining.
Thursday night’s other Group G match was a goal fest, with Spartak rallying to defeat Rangers 4-3.