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The Financial Express

Villarreal win Europa League after edging Man United in epic penalty shootout

| Updated: June 01, 2021 11:28:45


Villarreal's Alberto Moreno celebrates with the trophy after winning the Europa League — Pool via REUTERS Villarreal's Alberto Moreno celebrates with the trophy after winning the Europa League — Pool via REUTERS

Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli scored the decisive spotkick and saved counterpart David de Gea's attempt as they claimed their first European title by beating Manchester United 11-10 on penalties in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

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 to secure a 1-1 draw after extra time before going on to edge a tense shootout.

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.

After no goals were scored in extra time, all outfield players scored their penalties and Rulli coolly beat De Gea before saving the United keeper's spotkick.

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.

Raul Albiol blocked Eric Bailly and Moreno outmuscled Lindelof to slide in and meet Dani Parejo's curling cross, powering his shot beyond De Gea.

It was Moreno's 30th goal of the season and saw him become Villarreal's joint-top scorer of all-time alongside Giuseppe Rossi.

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