Aurier: Ex-Tottenham defender makes losing Villarreal debut against Athletic Bilbao
Serge Aurier made his Villarreal debut in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in a La Liga fixture.
Having left Tottenham Hotspur in August, the Cote d’Ivoire international joined the Yellow Submarine on a free transfer for the rest of the 2021-22 season, with the option of extending the contract for two more years.
Since his move to Estadio de la Ceramica, the 28-year-old has waited patiently for his maiden appearance – with his closest attempt an unused substitute role in the 2-1 triumph at home to Osasuna on October 17.
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However, he ended his wait as manager Unai Emery brought him on as a 65th-minute substitute for Argentine defender Juan Foyth.
Despite featuring for 25 minutes, he could do little as his team bowed away from home to Marcelino’s Lions.
Inspired by their 1-0 triumph over Alaves last time out, Bilbao took the lead through Raul Garcia after he converted a pass from Inaki Williams.
To make things worse for the visiting side, they had Gerard Moreno forced off injured with Nigeria international Samuel Chukwueze taking his place.
Thirteen minutes from the half-time break, Emery’s team restored parity as Frenchman Francis Coquelin’s deflected shot from Arnaut Danjuma's pass sailed past goalkeeper Unai Simon.
In the 77th minute, the hosts regained their lead through Iker Muniain who stepped up to convert a penalty kick after VAR replays adjudged that Alberto Moreno had fouled Unai Vencedor.
They had an opportunity to extend their lead five minutes later but Alex Berenguer could not convert from the penalty spot.
That miss was inconsequential as the Basque side sealed maximum points in the game they dominated.
Algeria international Aissa Mandi was an unused substitute for Villarreal while a knee injury kept Senegal’s Boulaye Dia out.
Following this defeat, the reigning Europa League kings dropped to 13th in the Spanish top-flight log with 11 points from nine matches.
Even at the setback, manager Emery expressed his admiration for his team while assuring they would keep working hard.
“I liked my team. We demand a lot from ourselves, and there are still things to improve on,” he told the club website.
“We need to continue working hard and learning things based on experiences. We were very disciplined tactically, and there were moments where we had the game where we wanted it, but they made us run a lot.”
Aurier would be gunning for a starter’s role when they square up against Cadiz on October 26.