Samuel Chukwueze came off the bench to play an influential part as Villarreal grabbed a much deserved but narrow 1-0 win over Celta Vigo at an empty Estadio de Balaídos in both sides first game following the restart of La Liga.
The Super Eagles winger was introduced for his 27th La Liga appearance on the hour mark for Gerard Moreno and was instrumental in helping fellow substitute Manuel Trigueros nick the winner in added time.
Chukwueze’s shot after Carlos Bacca’s mazy run was stopped in the box was saved by Celta goalkeeper Ruben Blanco but Trigueros showed sharp instincts to latch onto the rebound and break the home side’s resolve.
The win moves the Yellow Submarines up to 8th with 41 points and leaves Celta precariously placed in 17th-place just a point off the drop zone having played a game more than 18th-placed Real Mallorca and 19th-placed Leganes.
Villarreal were good value for the win having been the better team and could have gone in front in the first half but found Blanco in irresistible form in the Celta goal.
The goalkeeper pulled off fantastic saves from Santi Carzola and Vincente Iborra in the space of a minute before stopping a goal-bound Moreno header just before halftime.
Chukwueze’s introduction alongside Bacca helped Villarreal up the pace in attack and the Nigerian nearly broke the deadlock in the 66th minute after a trademark mazy run but his shot was directed straight at the keeper.
It was all Villarreal in the closing moments and Carlos Bacca looked to have finally broken the home team’s resolve when he beat a host of defenders but his shot whistled narrowly past the post.
Celta thought they’d secured a share of the spoils as the game entered the dying minutes but Villarreal had other ideas.
Colombian Bacca picked up the ball once again but his drive into the box was halted by the goalkeeper, with the ball then falling into Chukwueze’s path.
The Nigerian’s shot was saved by Blanco but the goalkeeper was powerless to keep out Trigueros’ effort from the rebound as the Yellow Submarines claimed all three points.