Villarreal bask in ‘special’ Europa League triumph as boss Emery reveals penalties not practiced
Villarreal defeated Manchester United 11-10 on penalties to win their first major trophy after a 1-1 draw in the Europa League final as goalkeeper David de Gea missed the decisive spot-kick in a remarkable shootout.
Gerard Moreno gave Villarreal the lead 29 minutes into the Spanish club’s first European final, but Edinson Cavani equalised early in the second half before Unai Emery’s team prevailed on spot-kicks, extending United’s four-year trophy drought.
“It’s a disappointed dressing room. That’s football for you. Sometimes it’s decided on one kick -- and that’s the difference between winning and losing,” said United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“We have to learn from it, taste this feeling and make sure we don’t get it again.”
He added: “We didn’t turn up. We didn’t play as well as we know we can.”
Villarreal midfielder Francis Coquelin was delighted that the victory also led to a place in next season’s Champions League.
“It feels really good. To play against a very good side like Manchester United, we knew it would be tough,” Coquelin told BT Sport.
“We didn’t manage to get to the Champions League through the league so to get it through the Europa League is something special -- and a first title for the club as well -- something amazing.”
Eric Bailly replaced the injured Harry Maguire in central defence, with the United captain surprisingly named among the substitutes despite suffering ankle ligament damage two weeks ago.
De Gea started ahead of Dean Henderson in goal, while Paul Pogba took up a more orthodox midfield role as Fred was only deemed fit enough for a spot on the bench.
An early collision between Juan Foyth and Pogba left the former Tottenham defender bloodied but both sides were slow to click into gear on a damp and chilly night on the Baltic coast.
Carlos Bacca’s clever rabona cross created an opportunity for Pau Torres, the centre-back linked with a summer move to United, while Marcus Rashford tested Geronimo Rulli with a dipping effort from distance.
Yeremy Pino, who at 18 years and 218 days broke Iker Casillas’ record as the youngest Spanish player to start a major European final, scuffed wide on the counter, but Villarreal were soon ahead.
Dani Parejo swung in a free-kick from the left and Moreno peeled away from Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof, steering beyond De Gea as the Swede desperately tugged at his shirt. -AFP