Villarreal beat Manchester United in a thrilling penaly shootout at Gdansk on Wednesday to win the Europa League title.
Villarreal beat Manchester United 11-10 on penalties after both teams remained locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes at Gdansk on Wednesday to win Europa League title. David De Gea missed the only penalty of the night after all the 21 players converted the spot kick. The final was a cagey affair as both teams failed to create too many clear cut chances. Gerard Moreno gave Villarreal the lead in the first half and the goal was their only shot on target in the whole match. Edinson Cavani leveled the score in the second-half.
Villarreal came out with a plan to sit back and hit the opposition on the counter attack. Unai Emery’s side executed the plan very well and they even got the lead. It came against the run of play in the 29th minute courtesy of Gerard Moreno. Dani Parejo’s in-swinging free-kick from the left side was slotted in by Moreno at the far post. It was the Spanish striker’s 30th goal of the season for Villarreal in all competitions.
Manchester United had the bulk of the ball possession but were finding it hard to break the resolute Villarreal defence. Just before the interval, Mason Greenwood burst past Villarreal left-back Alfonso Pedraza and delivered a fizzing cross. But it only deflected of defender Raul Albiol into the hands of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Ruli.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team came out all guns blazing in the second half. They were duly rewarded with an equalizer in the 55th minute. Luke Shaw’s corner from the left-wing was headed out by Albiol. However, Marcus Rashford’s first time volley from the clearance ricocheted into the path of Cavani. The Uruguayan quickly reacted to put the ball past Ruli, who had already dived anticipating the first attempt. It was the 34-year-old strikers sixth goal of the campaign. All six goals came in the last four matches.
After the equalizer, the English side were on the front foot and Villarreal absorbed the pressure. On the hour mark Emery withdrew striker Carlos Bacca and brought in Defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin. Less than ten minutes after that, Rashford missed a golden opportunity. Cavani released Bruno Fernandes down the right flank and the Portuguese playmakers low cross was scuffed wide by Rashford from close range. Within one minute of the missed chance, Cavani’s header from Luke Shaw’s miscued cross was blocked by Pau Torres in front of goal.
Paul Pogba headed the ball over the crossbar from another Luke Shaw cross two minutes from regular time and Torres at the other end fired the ball way over the goal in the injury time and the game went to extra time. Villarreal, who had made four more substitutions towards the end of second half looked more fresher going into the extra time compared to United who made their first in the 100th minute. The Spanish side started the extra time positively and stitched together few passes as the English side started tiring.
Only three on target attempts were made by both sides combined in the 120 minutes as the game went to penalty shootout. After all the ten outfield players from both sides scored the penalty, it was down to the goalkeepers. Ruli stepped up and slotted the ball past De Gea into the top corner but De Gea’s low and weak shot was well saved by Ruli, diving to his left to win the title for Villarreal
It was Villarreal’s first European title and Unai Emery’s fourth Europa League title as manager. The Spanish coach is now the most successful manager in the history of Europa League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wait for his first title as Manchester United manager goes on.