RECAP: EUROPA LEAGUE ACTION
Jozy Altidore got a surprise start up top for Villarreal in their loss to Zagreb, while Sacha Kljestan was not selected for Anderlecht's squad in their lopsided loss to Zenit.
Dinamo Zagreb 2 - 0 Villarreal CF
Jozy Altidore got the start up top for Villarreal, going the distance but failing to help them avoid being shut out by Dinamo Zagreb for a disappointing start to the Europa League group stage.
While head coach Juan Carlos Garrido chose to keep a handful of his normal starters either on the bench or back in Spain, the team had high hopes of opening with an important victory on the heels of their four-goal explosion in La Liga play during the weekend.
Rather, the team was given a tough lesson on the perils of taking any away game in the cauldron of a hostile stadium on the eastern side of the country too lightly.
Dinamo was clearly the aggressor from the opening whistle, free to take several shots in the first quarter-hour before pulling ahead in the 18th minute.
A pristinely-executed counter-attack was capped with Brazilian midfielder Sammir playing a fine through-ball into the area to Ante Rukavina, who beat keeper Diego Lopez on the angle to bury his low shot to the near corner.
The sinking Yellow Submarine were clearly unready for the game and were powerless to work any attacks into dangerous areas of the field, settling for the occasional probing long-range shot from Jefferson Montero that were never of any worry to Dinamo keeper Ivan Kelava.
Midfield guru Marcos Senna made any unlikely come-back all but forgotten when he was awarded a second yellow in the 74th minute for a hard challenge on Leandro Cufre, and their hopes were officially put to rest five minutes later as the hosts went up by a second goal.
Cufre slotted a ball through the Villarreal defense to Sammir, with the high-scoring midfielder easily beating Lopez for 2-0.
Villareal picked up the pace for the final ten minutes, albeit without creating any real worry for the hosts, with Altidore having a poor go at a cross from the substituted Giuseppe Rossi in the final moments.
Sacha Kljestan did not make the gameday roster as RSC Anderlecht fell 1-3 to visiting Zenit St. Petersburg.
Freddy Adu did not take part as Aris Thessaloniki pulled off an impressive 1-0 victory at home over cup holders Atlético Madrid to open Group B play.