Villarreal Clinch Europa League After Tense Shootout with Man Utd
Playing their first ever major European final, Unai Emery’s men clinched a memorable triumph 11-10 on penalties.
After a marathon penalty shoot-out, it was Spain’s Villarreal who edged out Manchester United in the Europa League final at Gdansk in Poland on Wednesday night. Man United, with this defeat, continue to be without a trophy under their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Villarreal's only previous silverware had been the Spanish third division in 1970 and two Intertoto Cups in 2003 and 2004.
Playing their first ever major European final, Unai Emery's men clinched a memorable triumph 11-10 on penalties in Gdansk. This was the longest penalty shootout in the history of a final of a major European competition (22 taken, 21 scored) with the previous record being 14 in the 2008 Champions League where Manchester United defeated Chelsea (6-5).
The two teams were tied at 1-1 after a tense 120 minutes of football before the shootout went down to the 22nd penalty kick. All of Villarreal’s penalty takers scored their spot kicks and were crowned champions when David de Gea’s shot was saved by goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.
In what was the first European football final to be played in front of a crowd since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Villarreal survived a tough second half before going on to edge the longest shootout (22 penalties) in any European final.
The win gave Villarreal coach Unai Emery a record fourth title in the competition, leaving United without a trophy since their Europa League triumph in 2017.
An in-form Gerard Moreno stretched to reach Dani Parejo’s free kick and steered the ball past De Gea to open the scoring in the 29th minute.
United, quite used to comebacks this season, restored parity with Edinson Cavani poking the ball home after collecting Marcus Rashford’s deflected shot early in the second half.
It was Moreno’s 30th goal of the season and saw him become Villarreal’s joint-top scorer of all-time alongside Giuseppe Rossi.
Emery’s Villarreal were the better side in the first half of extra time after he made all five changes before fulltime in contrast to Man United and Solskjaer, who did not make their first change until the 100th minute.
The five substitutes he did make all scored their penalties in an enthralling shootout, but the 11th kick was a bridge too far for De Gea.
The Europa final win means Villarreal’s place in next season’s Champions League is assured, saving them from competing in the new UEFA Conference League which they had qualified for by finishing seventh in La Liga.
Interestingly, the win for Villarreal also means Spain continue their dominance over English clubs at European finals, taking the score 10-0. Man United have been on the losing end of this streak in four finals - (2009 & 2011 Champions League, 2017 Super Cup, 2021 Europa League).
The 2020/21 season concludes on Saturday night with the UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City which will be played in Porto.
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