African All Stars

Afcon-bound Mandi scores first La Liga goal for Chukwueze’s Villarreal against Rayo Vallecano

19:30 WAT 12/12/2021
Aissa Mandi
The Algerian star fired home a cool finish to help the Yellow Submarine silence Andoni Iraola’s Red Sashes

It took until his eighth La Liga match with the club, but Aissa Mandi’s first Spanish top-flight goal for Villarreal was worth the wait in Sunday’s 2-0 triumph over Rayo Vallecano.

With the game still goalless at Estadio de la Ceramica at the half-hour mark, the Algeria international headed home a fine goal to give the Yellow Submarine a 1-0 lead at home.

Mandi flew into the box to connect with a Dani Parejo corner kick which left goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski with no chance to make a save.

Four minutes later, Unai Emery’s team had a chance to double their advantage when Gerard Moreno was brought down in the box by a defender, resulting in the referee to award the hosts a penalty.

The ensuing kick was converted by Moreno who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner of Dimitrievski's goal.

Those goals were enough to secure victory, though, Vallecano threatened to pull one back in the second half but were unable to beat goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli in goal.

While Mandi was in action from start to finish, Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze was introduced in the 62nd minute for Yeremi Pino, while Senegal’s Boulaye Dia was subbed off in the 63rd minute for Alberto Moreno.

For Cote d’Ivoire’s Serge Aurier, he was not listed for action as he remains on the sidelines due to a muscle injury.

On the other hand, Rayo Vallecano kept Senegal prospect Pathe Ciss on the bench from start to finish, while Morocco’s Yacine Qasmi was not dressed for action.

Addressing the media after the game, manager Emery revelled in the triumph of his side, while applauding the role Mandi played against the Red Sashes.

“Every game is difficult. They have dynamic and brave players, who push forward, but they also give you chances and that’s what you saw in the game,” the Villarreal boss said.

“We were efficient in both boxes. It was a difficult match after playing on Thursday and we needed people with fresh ideas to find that level of performance.

“We needed three points to feel a bit more comfortable in the table. Mandi is a great professional and he’s trustworthy.

“He’s seen it all in his career. You need to trust him and be calm.  Today he put in a great performance. We need him to be present and working well with the team.”

Mandi is expected to headline the Algeria squad for Cameroon 2021 as they hope to defend the title won three years ago in Egypt, same as Chukwueze who is one of coach Gernot Rohr’s reliable forwards.

Aurier’s time of recovery is not certain and that could be a big blow for the Elephants who are gunning for a third continental triumph.