Villarreal won its first major European trophy in the most memorable fashion: a penalty kick from its goalkeeper in the 11th round of a shootout with Manchester United, followed by a title-winning save for the Europa League trophy.
Gerónimo Rulli is a name that will go down in Villarreal and Europa League history as the keeper calmly stepped to the spot and scored after both sides converted each of their first 10 penalties. When Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea ran up to his shot, Rulli got a jump on the chance and dove right, deflecting the low shot away before being mobbed by his teammates.
The penalty shootout ended at with remarkable 11-10 scoreline after the two sides fought to a 1-1 draw in Gdańsk, Poland.
With the win, the Spanish side clinched a spot in next season’s Champions League group stage—at the expense of an automatic berth for third-place French side Monaco—while manager Unai Emery secured his fourth Europa League champion’s medal, the most in competition history.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester’s head coach said after the game: “The dressing-room is quiet, disappointed. That’s football: sometimes it’s decided on one kick. We’ve got to taste this feeling and make sure we don’t get it again. We didn’t turn up, we didn’t play as well as we can. We started all right; they got the goal with their only shot on target, and we’re disappointed to concede again on a set piece. We pushed, we pressed, we got the goal, but after that we couldn’t control the game.
“They made it hard for us. They closed the spaces and defended well. We didn’t create enough big chances. Now is not the time to discuss what I might have done differently, but when you go home without a trophy you haven’t done everything right.
“We’re getting closer and closer. We were one kick away tonight, but we’ve got to come back next year and make sure we improve again. The only way to get the fine margins on your side is to work harder and better.”
Ozoemela Chikwas reporting, Obinwannem News | May 27, 2021