Villarreal Beat Manchester United In The Europa League Final On Penalties
Villarreal beat Manchester United on penalties in the Europa League final on Wednesday night, to deny Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his first piece of silverware as United boss.
It was a cruel end to the game for David de Gea, after an incredible run of 21 penalties in-a-row came down the United keeper at the end, with the Spaniard having his spot kick saved by counterpart Geronimo Rulli.
The save confirmed Unai Emery's fourth Europa League victory, and secured Champions League football for his team next season.
:alarm_clock: RESULT :alarm_clock:- UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 26, 2021
Villarreal win an epic penalty shoot-out to become Europa League winners for the first time!
:top: Who impressed you most?#UELfinal https://t.co/lVpikKUosZ pic.twitter.com/3j7rKBQQEg
Solskjaer had failed at four semi-finals in a row over the past two seasons but entered the final in Gdansk as favourites against La Liga side Villarreal.
United went into the game without the injured Harry Maguire, meaning that Eric Bailly had to partner Victor Lindelof in goal, whilst Fred missed out in midfield, meaning Marcus Rashford played on the left and Paul Pogba partnered Scott McTominay in the middle.
As has often been the case under Solskjaer, the Red Devils had much of the early possession but struggled to make any clear cut chances.
Villarreal started working themselves into the game, against a defence that has rarely played together and took the lead just before the half hour mark.
Dani Parejo took an excellent free kick from the left hand side and Gerard Moreno, coming to the end of a brilliant season, got clear of Luke Shaw and Lindelof to put the ball past David de Gea and make it 1-0.
The Premier League side finished the half looking short of ideas in attack, with Mason Greenwood looking by far their biggest threat, and they ended the half behind.
It wasn't the first time United had found themselves chasing a game this season, having won 12 times from losing positions in all competitions across the campaign.
Solskjaer's side once again came out after the break looking a much better side and started moving the ball quicker.
The English side felt they should have had a penalty in the 52nd minute when Greenwood felt he was fouled by Alfonso Pedraza but VAR showed he got the ball first.
:camera_with_flash: - Greenwood looked to receive a kick on his foot but VAR says no penalty! pic.twitter.com/aVTXmzqdu4- :gem: (@TheEuropeanLad) May 26, 2021
However United didn't have to wait long to get level, as Edinson Cavani reacted quickest in his first European final to make it 1-1.
Scott McTominay won a corner in the 55th minute, when it looked like an attacking position for United would fall apart, Marcus Rashford struck from 20 yards out in the aftermath and Cavani turned it in, keeping himself onside.
Rashford should have put the ball in the back of the net but he somehow managed to hit his one-on-one chance wide, and would have been glad to see the flag go up for Cavani after the miss.
The Uruguayan nearly scored again as he headed Shaw's cross-cum-shot goalwards but the excellent Pau Torres got the block in.
Neither side could find the back of the net again and the two sides went into extra time, looking for a winner before a penalty shoot out.
With Unai Emery's side having made all five substitutions in normal time, and United having made none, it was the Spanish side who looked better in the first 15 minutes of extra time.
The second half was a poor affair, the Spanish side once again the stronger, and Solskjaer made five substitione, including bringing on Juan Mata and Alex Telles on with seconds left to take penalties.
Both men scored their spot kicks as did everyone else in an incredible sequence, where only Luke Shaw's spot kick looked like being saved.
Eventually it got down to the keepers and, after Rulli had put his into the corner, De Gea ended up as the villain for United.
Featured Image Credit: PA