After 90 and 120 minutes, Villarreal and Manchester United could not be separated as the UEFA Europa League 2020/21 final ended 1-1.
A goal in the first half by Gerard Moreno for Villarreal was canceled out by Edinson Cavani’s poacher’s effort early in the second half.
In the lottery of penalties, it was David De Gea who lost his nerve on United’s 11th penalty to hand the title, once again to Unai Emery, for the fourth time, and for the first time ever, Villarreal.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues his search for a first title with United while the Yellow Submarine, with Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze, celebrate a first European title.
United marched into the Polsat Plus Arena Gdansk in Poland, they were without their captain, Harry Maguire, and in his place, Bruno Fernandes led the Red Devils while Unai Emery had to name 18-year-old Yeremi Pino in place of the injured Samuel Chukwueze.
The first five minutes had United dominate possession but they were unable to create any goal-scoring chance. Scott McTominay tried his luck from outside the box in the sixth minute but it was wayward. Juan Foyth accidentally hit his head on Paul Pogba’s knee and he had to leave the pitch with blood streaming down his nose. With the right-back off the pitch, Etienne Capoue had to concede a corner from a Mason Greenwood run into the Villarreal box.
Foyth re-emerged with his head heavily bandaged. Manu Trigueros skied a corner on 16 minutes as the Spanish side enjoyed a bit of possession. Luke Shaw shot across the box before Pino’s shot was deflected by McTominay for another Villarreal corner. Pau Torres headed over from a clever cross from Carlos Bacca in the 23rd minute as the match opened up with the players initial nervousness dispelled. Marcus Rashford, who had been on the periphery of the action, shot straight at Geronimo Rulli. On the half-hour, the Yellow Submarine struck and it came courtesy of the team’s highest goal scorer, Gerard Moreno, whose decoy run opened up the space to attack Daniel Parejo’s pin-point cross, which he diverted past David de Gea.
Emery’s men then defended the last 15 minutes of the half with a low block, largely camped on the edge of the box and disallowing all the space that the likes of greenwood, Rashford, and Edinson Cavani wanted to run into. But they were lucky to end the half ahead as Greenwood’s cross accidentally hit Raul Albiol but luckily, the ball ended in Rulli’s hands.
Another freekick routine early in the second half almost led to Villarreal’s second goal. A deep cross found Moreno whose cross fell into Bacca’s path but the forward was unable to get a solid connection to get the ball past De Gea.
Pedraza looked to have caught Greenwood in the 52nd minute but after a VAR check, play resumed. The first yellow card of the encounter was shown to Capoue for a pull on Fernandes. McTominay fought to get a corner in the 54th as United cranked up the pressure and the pressure paid off as Rashford’s shot was charged down but it fell kindly to Cavani, who toe-poked into the net for the equaliser. After a lengthy VAR check, the ball was awarded.
Francis Coquelin replaced Bacca on the hour as Emery sought more control of the midfield. Rashford was clean through on 69 minutes from a precise cross from Fernandes. He missed the sitter but his blushes were saved by a late flag. On 70 minutes, Cavani was denied his second when Shaw’s cross cum shot was headed goal-ward by the Uruguayan but Torres got in a headed block.
It was all united at this point as they relentlessly chased a second goal. Pedraza chased down a long ball to earn Villarreal some respite with a corner. Trigueros had a shot that was also charged down for a second corner. In the 77th minute, Paco Alcacer replaced the youngster Yeremi and Moi Gome came on for Trigueros in a tactical change by Emery.
Another surging run from midfield by McTominay drew a corner as United pushed men forward for a likely winner. On 80 minutes, Rashford shot wide from the edge of the box. Bailly was booked for a body check on Alcacer with eight minutes left on the clock. Foyth was shown a yellow card for a foul on Shaw as the left-back charged forward. Mario Gasper and Alberto Moreno came on for Foyth and Pedrazza.
Pogba headed over in the 89th as the pace of the match slowed as three minutes were added on. Villarreal won a free kick in the United half from which Pau Torres was gifted the ball on the edge of the box but he drove his attempt over the bar. At the end of 90 minutes, Villarreal’s only shot on target was their goal while United had two shots on target with 60% of the ball possession.
Alcacer had a half-chance nine minutes into the first half of extra time but he snatched at the effort and the chance was gone. Bailly was penalised for a foul on Coquelin as Solskjaer sent on Fred for Greenwood. De Gea had to come and punch to clear the danger as Villarreal won another corner. A quick United breakaway was thwarted by Capoue.
The second half of extra time started with another free-kick loaded into the United box by Parejo but on this occasion, Albiol was penalised for a foul. Fred gave away another foul as Parejo got another chance to deliver a telling ball three minutes into the half but he lofted the ball straight at De Gea. It was at the stage where none of the teams or players were committed to taking any risks. Rashford got in a tangle with Albiol and had to have a medical time-out. Cavani was shown a yellow card for remonstrating vigorously with the French official, Clement Turpin. A handball incident on Fred was also checked by VAR as Bailly went off for Axel Tuanzebe and Daniel James came on for Pogo. Shaw had to be treated on the pitch after a clash with Coquelin.
Three minutes were added on. Villarreal were the ones pushing for the win as United players visibly wilted. Juan Mata and Alex Telles came on for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and McTominay. Capoue also made way for Daniel Raba as the match ended 1-1.
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