Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli kept his composure to score in a nerve-shredding, seemingly never-ending shootout then denied David de Gea as his side won their first major trophy by beating Manchester United 11-10 on penalties in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
After a tense encounter finished 1-1 following extra time, Argentine Rulli stepped up after every on-field player scored their spot kicks and he comfortably beat Spaniard De Gea, who finally buckled under the pressure in the unfamiliar role of taking rather than facing a penalty.
In the first European final to be played in front of a crowd in two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Villarreal survived a tough second half before going on to edge the longest shootout 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.
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, only for United to level when Edinson Cavani poked the ball home after collecting Marcus Rashford’s deflected shot on 55 minutes.
“This is a dream come true, in these moments we can all remember how hard we’ve worked to go down in the club’s history books,” said goalscorer Moreno.
“We wanted to make history and we did it. We played so well in extra time and our fans helped us in the shootout.”
The shootout win also booked Villarreal’s place in next season’s Champions League, saving them from competing in the new UEFA Conference League which they had qualified for by finishing seventh in La Liga.
United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his players had to remember the pain of the defeat for the future.
“They made it hard for us, we had the majority of possession but they defended well, we didn’t create enough big chances,” he added.
United forward Rashford said the club had passed up a great opportunity.
“In one word, it’s disappointing,” he said.
“But there’s no chance this team will give up, we’ll come back next season with a bigger desire.”
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
Villarreal were playing their first ever major final and coach Emery recognised United were favourites due to their more storied history, but urged his side to “keep breaking down barriers” after four semi-final exits.
Emery is renowned for his diligent study of opponents and although United made the stronger start, his side managed to minimise their strengths, ensuring Bruno Fernandes was deprived of space to create danger and Cavani had little wiggle room.
Their only chances in the first half were wayward shots from Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw and while Villarreal did not exactly sparkle, they made their one chance count from a free kick given away by Cavani.
It was Moreno’s 30th goal of the season and saw him become Villarreal’s joint-top scorer of all-time alongside Giuseppe Rossi.
United continued to take the initiative after the interval and levelled with a scrappy goal as Rashford volleyed against a crowd of bodies following a corner and the ball deflected into the path of Cavani, who stroked it into an unguarded net.
Villarreal were the better side in the first half of extra time after Emery made all five changes before fulltime, contrasting with Solskjaer, who did not make his 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.
Ange provides injury report and welcomes home Scottish Cup draw
Ange Postecoglou got the job done against Alloa Athletic in the Scottish Cup fourth round on Saturday.
A 2-1 win against League One side ensured advancement to the showpiece final at Hampden Park later this season.
The goal was to get through, but despite accomplishing that goal, injuries forced Callum McGregor and Yosuke Ideguchi to leave the Indodrill Stadium.
Ange Postecoglou spoke exclusively to Celtic TV about the duo’s fitness and the fifth round, which includes a match versus Raith Rovers at Celtic Park.
The Celtic manager said: “Callum is better today. He wasn’t in great shape after the game but I’ve exchanged messages with him and he feels a bit better, which is great.
“Knowing the type of character Callum is, for him to come off was something significant. Hopefully, his recovery doesn’t take too long.
“Yosuke is not great. I think I said after the game it didn’t look too serious but it’s still pretty painful now.
“I was optimistic it wouldn’t be too bad, but as everyone saw in the footage it was a tackle that shouldn’t have happened and should have been addressed on the day.
“It was a terrible tackle and one he hasn’t come of too well and will be missing for a little bit as well.
“The pitch wasn’t great in the last round against Alloa and they’re the type of things you want to avoid. The fact we’re at home in front of our supporters and on our pitch, I think is a good advantage.”
On the plus side, the team put in a strong performance on Saturday, led by Giorgos Giakoumakis, who scored his second goal for the green and white Hoops.
“It was good for him and more important it was good to get 90 minutes,” he said. “He’s had an interrupted first half of the year but he’s worked awfully hard.
“We gave most of the guys a week off in between games but he stayed at Lennoxtown with a few other boys and put in the work.
“He got through the 90 minutes pretty strong and scored his goal, so it’s a good foundation for him.”
Everton senior board members fume as Farhad Moshiri talks with Vitor Pereira in Monaco
According to the Daily Star, senior Everton officials are furious with Farhad Moshiri over his weekend meetings with Vitor Pereira.
Moshiri met with the contender for talks in Monaco, according to the newspaper’s print copy (25/01).
Given how disastrous the move to appoint Rafa Benitez was, board members at Goodison Park are thought to have strong opposition.
“Board and on the senior executive, especially given the disastrous appointment of Rafa Benitez,” the piece concluded.
Moshiri appeared to be going in headfirst and making the decision without engaging anyone.
This just goes to show that, while he may be a terrific businessman, his football brain is still lagging behind and causing serious problems at Goodison Park.
The owner is in desperate need of advice because some of his recent actions have been comical.
The fans are grateful to those senior board members who opted to stand up and be counted on this occasion, preventing a catastrophe.
Pereira may have won awards during his career, but he did so in nations like China, Greece, and Portugal, where it is expected.
Hopefully, Moshiri will listen to his board members more often, and they will assist him in making the best decision possible to move the Toffees ahead rather than backward.
Newcastle table £10m loan offer, player out of contract in the summer
Newcastle have reportedly made a £10 million loan approach for Jesse Lingard in the final days of the January transfer window, according to 90Min. According to the report, despite the fact that conversations have lasted a month, they ‘anticipate’ this offer to be ‘accepted.’
Lingard, who is 29 years old, has only started two of his 14 league and cup games this season. That’s following a brilliant loan spell with West Ham last season, in which he netted nine goals and contributed five assists in 16 appearances. In June, his contract will expire.
Newcastle, as well as West Ham and Tottenham, have been heavily connected with Lingard. However, according to the source, Newcastle has offered United a £10 million loan fee for Lingard after extensive discussions.
Unless he accepts a new Old Trafford contract, such a deal would likely put an end to his United career. It’s unknown whether Lingard wants to transfer, but it’s been said that Newcastle would have to pay him twice as much as he is now.
Lingard still needs to be persuaded. Newcastle triumphed over the weekend, which is crucial not only in terms of staying up but also in terms of attracting players this month. It provides those who are being hunted a better chance of surviving.
Lingard possesses the ability to increase Newcastle’s hopes of remaining in the Premier League significantly. If he joins on loan, Newcastle will have six months to persuade him to sign a permanent contract – and it could work out.
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