The Spanish side were particularly impressive in the first half, a fluid attacking performance rewarded with goals from Christian Cedres Artiles on 31 minutes and Roger Riera in the second minute of added time. It might have been more but for the agility of goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman, who produced a string of fine saves.
We improved in the second half and the arrival of Shilow Tracey and Tariq Hinds off the bench and a tactical switch around with George Marsh moving into central midfield saw us take the game to the visitors without carving out too many clear-cut chances. Tracey's glancing header just wide in the final minute was the closest we came to responding.
The result means Villarreal will top the group with three wins out of three having already put Benfica and West Ham to the sword. Six group winners and the two best runners-up will eventually progress to the quarter-finals so it's still all to play for when we take on Benfica in our final group game on Wednesday 24 January.
FAST START FROM VILLARREAL - WHITEMAN SAVES - 1-20mins
Villarreal were quickly out of the traps and created chances in the opening 20 minutes. After a couple of early warnings, Whiteman was forced into a couple of fine saves, first to turn away Artiles' free-kick on eight minutes and then to deny Imanol Garcia at full stretch. Simon Moreno also missed the target twice from dangerous positions and Artiles lashed over. At the other end, Kazaiah Sterling curled our first chance wide on 14 minutes.
OFF THE LINE - VILLARREAL CLOSE - 21mins
Whiteman was there again as the Spanish side continued to press in the opening stages. This time Genis Montolio powered in a
header from a corner that the goalkeeper appeared to get a touch to before Brooklyn Lyons-Foster completed the clearance on
GOAL: SPURS 0-1 VILLARREAL - ARTILES - 31mins
The visitors found the breakthrough on 31 minutes. A move broke down and we looked set to take the ball under control but Artiles won possession back, shook off two challenges and drove into the box. He then shifted inside onto his right foot and curled into the top right corner from the left angle.
HARRISON TESTS LAZARO - 41mins
A rare sight of goal for us in the first half as Shayon Harrison left Garcia in knots on the right touchline before cutting inside and letting fly with his left foot, a decent hit from 20 yards that stung Diego Lazaro's fingers in the Villarreal goal.
GOAL: SPURS 0-2 VILLARREAL - RIERA - 45+2mins
Villarreal were relentless in the first half and responded to Harrison's effort. Artiles' corner appeared to strike the foot of the post, Whiteman did well to keep out Franco Acosta's low drive but from the corner, the ball was worked to Pedro Martinez on the edge of the box, he drilled across goal where Riera diverted home from six yards.
WHITEMAN DENIES VILLARREAL - 46-62mins
Chances were few and far between in the second half. Whiteman was called into action twice in the early stages, tipping over substitute Dario Poveda's header and then a block at his near post to keep out Franco Acosta.
SUBSTITUTIONS MAKE IMPACT - LATE REDS - 66-100mins
Wayne Burnett introduced Tariq Hinds and Shilow Tracey off the bench on 66 minutes with George Marsh switching from right-back into central midfield. Tracey soon fired a 25-yarder at Lazaro and the team took the initiative in the latter stages, restricting Villarreal to counter-attacks that came to nothing. The match developed an edge as we ticked into seven minutes of added time and after the first two bookings of the match - both to Villarreal - a late skirmish saw three players see red - Keanan Bennetts, Franco Acosta and Simon Moreno. Tracey then glanced a header just wide and the match ended with 55 minutes on the clock in the second half.
Below: Wayne Burnett at Stevenage
COACH WAYNE BURNETT SAID
"I thought in the first half they were far better than us, moved the ball much quicker, looked sharper. We didn't get tight enough and they deserved to be in front. The disappointing thing for me was that we conceded just before half-time. Saying that, we looked a different team in the second half, got on the front foot, got after them a little better and created chances of our own.
"I said at half-time that we needed to be a little better out of possession in terms of our shape and I felt we did that in the second half. We changed a couple of things around, brought on Shilow and Tariq and moved George into central midfield and he seemed to energise us. At that point, we looked the more likely to score although they hit us on the counter a little with their clever movement and passing. I don't think they really troubled us in the second half though and if anyone was going to score, it was going to be us.
"We were playing against a good team, good players and it was a good test
for us. If you want to succeed, you have to overcome good teams and
good players. We didn't do that in the first half but I felt we were
better in the second half. We said we wanted to win that second half or at least not lose it and that's what happened."
Spurs: Whiteman, Marsh, Bennetts, Skipp, C Maghoma, Lyons-Foster, Roles (Tracey 63), Pritchard (c), Sterling, Harrison (Loft 82), S Shashoua (Hinds 63). Substitutes (not used): Austin, Reynolds.
Villarreal CF: Lazaro, Montolio (Fernandez 81), Quintilla, Riera, Bueno (c), Lozano, Artiles, Garcia (Moya 70), Acosta, Martinez (Poveda 53), Moreno. Substitutes (not used): Franquesa, J Martinez, Francisco, Gonzalez.
Goals: Villarreal - Artiles 31, Riera (45+2).
Yellow cards: Villarreal - Lozano 89, Artiles 94.
Red cards: Spurs - Bennetts 97. Villarreal - Acosta 97, Moreno 97.
Referee: Neil Hair.
Our final match in the group stage of the Premier League International Cup is against Benfica back at Stevenage on Wednesday 24 January (7pm).