Panathinaikos coach Henk ten Cate said his team departed the Champions League with their heads held high after Villarreal came away from Athens with a 2-1 victory that took them into the quarter-finals.
“I wouldn’t say the result was a failure,” said Ten Cate. “These were two very difficult encounters against a great team, very tough matches for both sides. At this level minor details make all the difference. Their two goals tonight came from our mistakes and at this level, you pay dearly for your errors.
“I can’t complain about my players, they did everything they could. Tonight, it just wasn’t enough. Especially for the second goal, we left three players unmarked. It’s a small error, but they killed us with that.
“In the first half tonight, we had more possession and most of the pressure. But in the second half we should have played more with our heads and not only with our hearts. We should be more intelligent and that is something we weren’t, especially in the second goal when we conceded. But that’s a lack of experience.
“When we started our UEFA Champions League adventure this season more than 80 per cent of our squad hadn’t played in this competition. Since then, we have improved a lot as a team, we managed to win our group, recorded great away victories in Milan and Bremen and played well in general. We exit with our heads held high; we are proud of our Champions League campaign.”
Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini said their win was “deserved” thanks to their superiority over both legs.
“I am very happy with our victory,” he said. “It’s very important for us to be among the eight best teams in Europe. It was a deserved qualification, bearing in mind that we were also the better team in the first leg.
“Our performance in the second half today was as it should be and it paid off. The first half was more even, but after the interval we moved our lines forward and put pressure on Panathinaikos.
“Our method of attacking was the one you saw tonight on the pitch, charging along the flanks, especially down the left; we were very dangerous and ultimately successful.”