Aston Villa eliminates Lille on penalties and advances to the semi-finals

Aston Villa qualified for the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League at the expense of Lille on Thursday at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium (2-1, tab 4-3). The Villans reached the last four of the competition against the northern club who did not deserve it, but who fell to Emiliano Martinez who made two saves during the decisive penalty shootout.

Published on: 04/18/2024 – 9:43 p.m. Modified on: 04/18/2024 – 10:33 p.m.

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Lille was not far from reaching the last four of the Europa Conference League, but ultimately it is Aston Villa who will see the semi-finals of the European competition. The Villans won at the end of the suspense (2-1, tab 4-3), Thursday April 18, at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium.

Beaten 2-1 in the first leg, the Mastiffs thought they would hold their place in the semi-final with two goals from Yazici (15th) and André (68th), before Cash (87th) snatched extra time. Aston Villa’s Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was decisive in the penalty shootout by repelling shots from Bentaleb and André.

Public enemy No. 1 in France since the 2022 World Cup final won by the Albiceleste against the Blues, and the provocations he subsequently committed against Kylian Mbappé, “Dibu” Martinez was the perfect antihero of this Homeric encounter.

However, nothing was spared. Jeered at by the Pierre-Mauroy stadium with each touch of the ball, author of a save by taking the ball in the face (25th), warned of a yellow card twice – without this being synonymous with expulsion, because during the match then during the penalty shootout – Martinez never left his meeting.

Matty Cash, executioner of Losc

But before him, the Villans had another hero: Matty Cash, scorer of the goal which changed everything at the very end of the match (87th).

That this goal will linger in the minds of Lille players and supporters for a long time… Punished for their only real moment of absence by a deflected shot from the side after a ball released by goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier, the Mastiffs will harbor immense regrets as they cherished the hope of a “remonchtida”.

Before that, they had the ideal match, biting in intensity, admirable in defensive solidity and inspired in attack. Paulo Fonseca’s players brought together the ingredients they lacked in England a week ago: intensity and management of set pieces.

They also saw their wish to see the Pierre-Mauroy stadium, unfortunately usually hushed, become a cauldron thanks to the support of 47,000 Lille supporters.

In this atmosphere hostile to the English club, Lille stifled Unai Emery’s players, whose weight of four Europa League trophies (three with Sevilla FC, one with Villarreal) did not seem to weigh heavily during the match.

Losc punctuated their ideal start to the match with a sumptuous goal scored a quarter of an hour into the game by surprise guest Yusuf Yazici, starting in the absence of Edon Zhegrova, injured in an ankle. The Turk concluded with an uncontrolled strike (15th) a nice collective movement whose penultimate passer was Gabriel Gudmundsson, another addition to the starting lineup at Villa Park.

The emotional elevator of Benjamin André

Still impressive, Lille came very close to doubling the score with a header from their captain Benjamin André after a free kick, but a great save from Emiliano Martinez prevented them from doing so.

Martinez, however, had to bow when André this time victoriously took over a corner well taken by Hakon Haraldsson (67th). At this point in the game, luck seemed on Lille’s side: the ball hit the crossbar then the post before going in.

But that was before Cash’s goal, absent in the first leg, and Villan better in attack despite his position being pushed back with numerous attempts (43rd, 56th, 83rd).

It was undoubtedly at this moment that Lille lost this meeting which held out its arms to them. What followed was a sensation of déjà vu for the French supporters: Martinez dominated his element, disrupted Nabil Bentaleb then diverted his attempt before ordering the Losc ultras to silence with a finger on his lips.

Then the hated enemy does it again, this time stopping that of Benjamin André, who came very close to hero status, just like Lille in its first European semi-final.

With AFP


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