Defending champions Sevilla could only manage a 2-2 draw away at Croatian side Rijeka in Group G of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.
They were heading for a shock defeat as they trailed 2-1 in stoppage time, but Stephane Mbia came up trumps to provide a dramatic equaliser for the La Liga side.
Sevilla have made a very strong start to the new La Liga campaign. After opening the season with a 1-1 draw against Valencia, they reeled off four wins on the bounce to leave them joint-top.
However, they were brought crashing back down to earth on Saturday when Atletico Madrid handed them a real footballing lesson and a 4-0 thumping to match at Vicente Calderon.
Nevertheless they were clear favourites for their trip to Eastern Europe, and when Liverpool loanee Iago Aspas put them ahead on 26 minutes it seemed like normal service was being resumed.
The matched turned on its head seven minutes into the second half, however, when Timothee Kolodziejczak brought down Andrej Kramaric in the penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot and showed the Sevilla man a straight red card, while Kramaric picked himself up to convert from 12 yards.
He played a huge part too in Rijeka’s second midway through the half, as he provided the assist for Zoran Kvrzic to finish and complete the turnaround.
Time was ticking away for Emery’s men but Mbia got them out of jail one minute into stoppage time. Benoit Tremoulinas’ cross into the area was finished by the Cameroon international much to the relief of his side.
Despite a very average performance from the La Liga outfit, the points was enough to keep them top of Group G after Feyenoord made up for their defeat last time out by overcoming Standard Liege in the other game.
There were no such problems though for Villarreal at El Madrigal, as they swept Cypriot side Apollon Limassol 4-0 in Group A.
The Yellow Submarine took just eight minutes to break the deadlock as Gerard Moreno fired home from inside the area.
Luciano Vietto set up Javier Espinosa who doubled the lead just before half-time, before he got his second after the break as the two combined once more.
Moreno also completed his brace with eight minutes to play to round off a comfortable victory for Marcelino’s side. They move above their opponents to take top spot in Group A by a point.
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