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Chukwueze is last Nigerian standing as Villarreal send Juventus out of Champions’ League

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Villarreal stunned Juventus with a 3-0 win to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2009.

Super Eagles’ winger, Samuel Chukwueze was in action from 65th minute and shortly after he was introduced, Gerard Moreno, Pau Torres and Arnaut Danjuma all scored in the final quarter as Juventus unravelled in embarrassing fashion.

Unai Emery’s side produced a defiant defensive show for most of the Turin return after the two sides had played out a 1-1 draw in Spain three weeks ago. 

Villarreal took a 78th-minute lead when substitute Francis Coquelin tumbled over Daniele Rugani’s outstretched leg.

The penalty was awarded after a VAR review and Moreno, who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes, just managed to beat Wojciech Szczesny from the spot.

Torres added a second five minutes from time, stabbing in from close range after Serge Aurier had flicked on a corner.

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Danjuma sealed victory in stoppage time with a third goal in 14 minutes, sweeping home a second penalty for ‘The Yellow Submarine’ after Matthijs De Ligt had handled.  

Villarreal had earlier settled into their possession-based game, yet it was Juventus who carried the greater attacking threat.

Juventus should have broken the deadlock after 11 minutes when Juan Cuadrado’s whipped cross found Alvaro Morata unmarked in front of the Villarreal goal.

Contact on the header was good but Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli reacted superbly to claw the ball to safety.

Morata turned provider to free Dusan Vlahovic, but again Rulli was alert to the Serbian’s bending shot. 

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Vlahovic went even closer when he met Mattia De Sciglio’s centre to rattle the crossbar from a tight angle.

Giovani Lo Celso curled just wide as Villarreal countered at speed.

But the visitors were again indebted to Rulli’s reflexes when he kept out Vlahovic’s point-blank header at his near post – and Juventus were made to pay for their missed chances in the closing stages. 

In the other match of the night, Chelsea maintained their hopes of retaining the Champions League as they beat Lille at a lively Stade Pierre-Mauroy to secure a 4-1 aggregate win and reach the quarter-finals.

The Blues took a 2-0 first-leg lead to France but, in a match played amid continued uncertainty over the club’s future, they had to come from behind after a slow start to earn success in the return.

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Burak Yilmaz pulled Lille back into the tie with a penalty after Jorginho handled, only for Christian Pulisic to reply in first-half injury time.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta then put the last-16 encounter beyond the French champions when he finished at the back post with 19 minutes remaining.

Thomas Tuchel’s side will find out their last-eight opponents in Friday’s draw.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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