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Emiliano Martinez says being Villa’s penalty hero against Lille was ‘destiny’

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 18 Apr 2024

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King of the dark arts Emiliano Martinez said it was his destiny to be the penalty shootout hero as Aston Villa booked their spot in the semi-final of the Europa Conference League

The Argentina goalkeeper, who helped his country win the World Cup 18 months ago in similar circumstances, produced more heroics against Lille, saving spot-kicks from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Andre to earn a 4-3 shootout win after the quarter-final had ended 3-3 on aggregate.

There was plenty of his trademark gamesmanship on show as he shushed the baiting French crowd, who had not forgotten what happened in Qatar, and then caused confusion by receiving a yellow card from the referee in the middle of the shootout, having already been booked in normal time.

But bookings are not carried forward into the shootout meaning he could stay on and send Villa into a first European semi-final since 1982.

“It has been a hell of a ride all of my career. I am a believer and a hard worker and it was my destiny today,” he said on TNT Sports.

“I always say in all my career, I owe my team-mates in those moments, even when we were watching Real Madrid last night the manager was saying we might go to penalties and in those moments I own my box.”

On the shootout drama, where he was shown a yellow card by referee Ivan Kruzliak, he said: “It’s all about reputation for time-wasting because the other goalie was doing exactly the same thing.

“I got a yellow after 30 minutes and we were losing the game so I don’t know what the ref wants from me.

“Then there was no ball in the penalty spot and I was asking for a ball from the ball boy and I get booked; I just don’t understand the rules.”

Martinez’s heroics rescued Villa as they were not deserving of victory, having been outplayed for the majority of the second leg in France, with goals from Yusuf Yazici and Andre overturning a 2-1 first-leg advantage.

Matty Cash’s 87th-minute strike sent it to extra-time, with Martinez coming up trumps in the shootout to give boss Unai Emery an eighth successive European quarter-final victory.

The Spaniard, so prolific in the Europa League with Sevilla and Villarreal, will be eyeing another European trophy.

And with Villa leading the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League which would achieve Champions League qualification for the first time in the club’s history, the Argentina international says something special is on the horizon.

“This group of players and the managers are special, the owners get involved as well, they are always behind us,” he said.

“It feels like we are going to do something special, I don’t know if it’s Champions League or I don’t know if its Conference League but we try to do everything we can to push the football club.”

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