EUROPE’S FOOTBALL SEASON HAS COME TO AN END WITH AN EPIC FINALE
Europa League Final
Villarreal’s shootout victory also secured their position in next season’s Champions League, preventing them from participating in the new UEFA Conference League, which they had qualified for by placing seventh in La Liga. Villarreal was in their first major final, and though coach Emery acknowledged that United were the favourites owing to their long history, he pushed his team to “keep breaking through barriers” following four semi-final exits. Emery is known for his meticulous research of opponents, and despite the fact that United had the better start, Emery’s team managed to minimise their weaknesses, ensuring Bruno Fernandes was deprived of space to generate danger and Cavani had little wiggle room. Villarreal survived a rough second half in the first European final played in front of a crowd in two years during the COVID-19 epidemic before going on to win the longest shootout in any European final. Villarreal coach Unai Emery now has a record fourth title in the league, leaving United without a trophy since winning the Europa League in 2017.
Their only opportunities in the first half came from inaccurate efforts from Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw, and though Villarreal didn’t exactly dazzle, they made the most of their one chance, a free kick given away by Cavani. It was Moreno’s 30th goal of the season, and he joined Giuseppe Rossi as Villarreal’s all-time leading scorer. Gerard Moreno strained to reach Dani Parejo’s free kick and drove the ball past De Gea in the 29th minute, only for United with a scrappy goal as Rashford volleyed into a mass of players following a corner, and the ball rebounded into the path of Cavani, who stroked it into an unguarded net to equalise on 55 minutes when Edinson Cavani rolled the ball in after collecting Marcus Rashford’s deflected drive.
After a tight match ended 1-1 after extra time, Argentine Rulli went up after every on-field player had scored their spot kicks, and he easily beat Spaniard De Gea, who finally cracked under the strain of taking rather than facing a penalty. Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli held his cool to score in a nerve-wracking, apparently never-ending shootout, then denied David de Gea as his team won their first major title on Wednesday, defeating Manchester United 11-10 on penalties in the Europa League final.
“Guardiola turned all of Africa against himself, and many African supporters abandoned Manchester City. And I’m confident that many African shamans will not allow Guardiola to win the Champions League in the future” Dmitri Seluk, agent of Yaya Toure said.
City were the pre-tournament favourites, but they had a disastrous night in Porto in their first Champions League final. Pep Guardiola’s team was never allowed to play their usual fluid approach and were unable to reply as a disciplined Chelsea secured their second Champions League victory.
Chelsea’s Kai Havertz redeemed some of his massive transfer cost with a first-half goal in the Champions League final against Manchester City on Saturday. Chelsea’s record purchase, the German youth, latched on to Mason Mount’s pass and avoided City keeper Ederson before sliding the ball into an empty net in the 42nd minute.
Pep Guardiola looked to have a solid team heading into the final, but he decided to throw a shocker by starting Raheem Sterling in Porto. The subsequent tactical shift left City without a designated holding midfielder, which proved costly in the build-up to Chelsea’s goal. Thomas Tuchel, who was hired in January, has altered this Chelsea team, making them difficult to defeat, and it has paid off handsomely. Rüdiger came in cold and was outstanding all the way through the knockout stage; and if Timo Werner and Kai Havertz still have so much more to contribute, there is little doubt it will happen under Tuchel.
Edouard Mendy’s eighth clean sheet of the competition, though he only had one stop to make on the night due to the quality of those in front of him. Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen provided outstanding blocks after stepping into Thiago Silva’s shoes following the Brazilian’s first-half injury. Chelsea was outstanding in possession, getting all 11 players behind the ball and preventing Manchester City from playing the type of game that they are known for.
Sergio Aguero failed to keep his commitment to stay at Manchester City until he won the Champions League, as his final match for the club ended in a loss.
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