Lille loses to Aston Villa but can still dream

Lille loses to Aston Villa but can still dream

By Le Figaro

Published yesterday at 10:57 p.m., Updated yesterday at 11:30 p.m.

Diakité, Lille scorer. Dylan Martinez / REUTERS

This Thursday evening in the quarter-final first leg, Losc lost to the “Villans” (2-1).

Lille suffered the law of Aston Villa (2-1), more intense and athletic in Birmingham on Thursday, and will have to erase a short disadvantage in the return match of this quarter-final of the Europa Conference League.

Lille knew their difficult task ahead of this meeting at Villa Park against the astonishing fifth in the Premier League, led by the experienced Unai Emery. They weren’t wrong. In an exceptional atmosphere at times, the Mastiffs were dominated by the Villans of the elusive Ollie Watkins and the impassable Emiliano Martinez. The English striker had a great match, in line with his superb season in the English championship – 18 goals and ten assists – making the Lille rearguard dizzy.

It was after his third attempt in two minutes that the N.11 of the Villans found the fault. The England international won a first duel against Leny Yoro – the start of a difficult evening for the young French hopeful – before hitting from a tight angle (12th).

In the process, he called on Lucas Chevalier from close range, then deceived him with a header at the far post after a corner (13th). No Lille player defended Watkins, although a danger was well identified by Paulo Fonseca before the match, who described him as “one of the best attackers at the moment in Europe”. All evening, the Three Lions player was a threat for the Mastiffs, often escaping behind their backs and creating several chances (23rd, 34th, 49th). It was finally Villa captain John McGinn who doubled the score with an unstoppable strike after another corner, this time played with two players (56th).

The Martinez nightmare

At the other end of the field, the best Villan was the Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, public enemy No. 1 in France since the Albiceleste’s world title. “Dibu” Martinez disgusted Lille who, paradoxically, had several opportunities to equalize and then reduce the score despite the impression of power and tactical mastery that Emery’s players gave off.

Martinez won two duels first against Edon Zhegrova (24th), then in front of Bafodé Diakité (31st), in addition to his multiple decisive interventions (30th, 41st, 71st, 72nd), celebrating some of them. But he couldn’t do anything when Diakité, decidedly one of the best Lille players both in defense and attack in the north of Birmingham, cut a corner well struck at the near post by incoming Rémy Cabella (84th).

But this goal, the third coming from a corner in this match, arrived too late for the northern club, generally worse than that of the West Midlands, under the eyes of Prince William. If Gabriel Gudmundsson’s goal shortly after the hour mark had not been refused for an offside position, the match would perhaps have swung in favor of Lille (63rd). But it didn’t happen and they will have to play a big match in a week at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy to get through the quarters, which they are discovering in Europe.

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