Lopez had to make three more saves as the game approached half-time - one straightforward from Fletcher after Rooney chested down Nani's cross, and two athletic efforts to deny Ronaldo. The first of these was a stunning finger-tip save to push an equally excellent shot onto the crossbar; the final stop demonstrated good reactions as he saw Ronaldo's free-kick late but still managed to smuggle it wide. Sebastian Eguren saw yellow for the foul leading to the setpiece.
Villarreal were forced into a change at the break, bringing Bruno on for Marcos Senna. The substitute's first telling contribution, a left-wing cross aimed for Rossi, was decisively headed away by Evra.
Ronaldo resumed his duel with Diego Lopez when he drove in a menacing shot that bounced just before the keeper saved it. When Rooney went for the rebound and fell in the area, there were appeals from both sides – from Ronaldo for a penalty and from Villarreal’s defenders for a booking to punish what they saw as a dive. The referee made neither call but did produce a card for Ronaldo moments later, apparently for dissent after a separate incident. Fuentes joined Ronaldo in the book for a foul on Rooney; play was waved on to allow Fletcher a shot that he dragged wide.
With the game opening up around the hour mark, Anderson twice hit low shots straight at the keeper and Rooney chipped one wide – both players benefiting from Fletcher’s neat approach play. Another Rooney shot, on the turn following Carrick's penetrative pass, found a familiar fate - well saved by Lopez.
The Reds enjoyed some luck when Santi Cazorla bent a glorious cross in behind the defence and only just failed to get a connection from Rossi and his cohorts. Villarreal were then fortunate when Rooney's centre from the left, deflected off a defender, was