Newly-crowned Europa League champions Villarreal graced Pittodrie 10 years ago as Aberdeen paid tribute to fans’ favourite Darren Mackie.
The Yellow Submarine are kings of Europe, having defeated Manchester United in a nerve-wracking 11-10 penalty-shoot in the Europa League final.
The Spanish La Liga side triumphed when their goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli scored an 11th penalty before making the decisive save in stopping United keeper David de Gea’s spot-kick.
— UEFA (@UEFA) May 27, 2021
A decade earlier, the Spanish giants were in the Granite City on July 19, 2011 to play in the testimonial for long-serving striker Mackie.
The £1m goal in Dnipro
The popular attacker famously scored the “£1million pound” goal with his diving header in Dnipro to secure Uefa Cup group stage football.
Mackie, 29, had been at the club for 12 years and just under 10,000 Aberdeen fans turned up to thank him for his service.
Villarreal arrived in the Granite City on a high, having finished fourth in La Liga to secure a Champions League spot.
Only months earlier, they had played in the semi-final of the Europa League only to lose out to Porto 7-4 on aggregate.
Villarreal had a Champions League play-off clash against Odense looming and this was treated as a vital warm-up game by the Spaniards.
The visitors named an impressive team, including Spanish internationals Santi Cazorla, Borja Valero, Marcos Senna and Bruno.
Richard Foster had handed the captain’s armband to Mackie for the night.
Villarreal showed their intent in the opening minute when Cazorla fired an effort just wide of on-loan Aberdeen keeper David Gonzalez’s post.
In the 15th minute, Mackie was caught offside – and the crowd booed the linesman!
It was his special night after all.
Midway through the half, Andy Considine played in Mackie and, rather than shoot, the striker opted to find Scott Vernon who had broken into the box.
Defender Massachio intercepted, but directed the ball towards his own goal with keeper Diego Lopez saving.
In the 33rd minute, Ryan Jack broke in on goal and elected to shoot with Mackie free and shouting for the ball.
Jack’s effort went wide.
In the 39th minute, Cazorla was played one-on-one with Gonzelez, but the on-loan keeper raced to close him down and made an impressive save.
Italian international nets the winner
Early in the second half, Aberdeen midfielder Rob Milson hit a 25-yard shot that was spilled by keeper Lopez, but the stopper recovered to gather the loose ball.
The deadlock was broken in the 53rd minute through half-time substitute Giuseppe Rossi, with the Italian international shooting beyond Gonzalez from 12 yards.
Midway through the second half, Josh Magennis burst down the right before crossing into the box to find Mackie who was six yards out.
The goal the supporters wanted to see to cap the testimonial did not come as Mackie shot just wide.
‘We are all Darren Mackie’
At full-time the crowd applauded Mackie.
A banner raised said it all. It read “We are all Darren Mackie”.
An Aberdeen supporter himself, Mackie was part of the Red Army and they showed their appreciation to one of their own.
Surprisingly Villarreal would go on to suffer a disastrous season, failing to take a single point from a Champions League group alongside Bayern Munich, Napoli and Manchester City.
The 2011-12 season also ended in a shock relegation for a side that had such high aspirations less than a year earlier when arriving at Pittodrie.
In losing 1-0 to Atletico Madrid on the final game of the campaign, the Yellow Submarine sunk to the second tier of Spanish football.
Now they are back at the top as Europa League champions.