PLAYER RATINGS | Lille 2-1 Aston Villa: Emiliano Martínez haunts France once again

UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg, 18/04/22

Lille 2-1 Aston Villa (3-3 on aggregate; 3-4 after penalties)

The focus in the buildup to the game was always going to be on Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martínez. The Argentine goalkeeper became public enemy number one during the 2022 World Cup, and his antics were not soon forgotten by the French crowd that gathered to watch. Lille OSC had been the better team throughout the contest, but as penalties arrived and a hostile stadium gathered, there was always going to be one winner. 

Martínez’s every involvement was met with a cacophony of fierce whistles from a support that had seemingly gathered not only to will their team on but to vent their past frustrations at the World Cup winner. 

Despite this, the goalkeeper was a spectator as a flowing passing move cut through the box and found Yusuf Yazıcı who continued his impressive performance in the first leg with a scintillating finish. The hosts saw less of the ball than their guests, but they created far more with it, forcing Martínez into a reflex save to keep the score 2-2 on aggregate. 

Villa looked leggy as they tried to control the tempo of the game, and proved far too toothless when they ventured into the Lille half. They could not manage a single shot for the entire first forty-five minutes, and as the half-time break approached there was a growing sense of tension within the guests. 

The sloppiness from Villa continued into the second half with Youri Tielemans gifting Hákan Haraldsson the ball in a threatening area, although the Icelander’s shot was unable to test Martínez. Lille maintained their early pressure gaining the ball in high positions and making the Villa defence sweat. 

In the 56th minute, Matty Cash was able to record the first shot for the visitors. A dangerous-looking move but one that ultimately was still off-target. However, it least provided something that had been missing from the first half for the visitors, with their fullbacks finally making more adventurous runs into the Lille half. 

However, they still had not provided enough throughout the game, and Lille’s pressure eventually paid off. A set piece found its way to one of the smaller players on the pitch when the captain Benjamin André leapt highest and headed the ball towards the goal. It struck the post but soon found its way home allowing for Lille for the first time in the tie to take the lead. 

Cash took advantage of a terrible bit of goalkeeping from Lucas Chevalier, as the goalkeeper crashed into Nabil Bentaleb, and allowed a loose ball for the fullback to collect and fire home. One more chance for Lille came when Bafodé Diakité latched onto a header, but the shot was too honest and flew straight into the hands of Martínez. And it was up to extra time for the game to be settled.

Extra time and penalties await Lille and Aston Villa 

Fatigue began to set in for both sides as the first half of extra time took its toll on the teams. There was far less intensity from Lille which suited Villa who continued to grow into the game. Forcing a magnificent double save from Chevalier who more than made up for his earlier transgression. A late wave of pressure from Lille never threatened Martínez but kept the Villa defence occupied. 

As the second half of extra time began the prospect of penalties began to settle in and the thought of the World Cup winner began to loom. The thought kept ticking, could he break French hearts again? In an arena that has been so hostile towards him. Lille were desperate not to allow this while Villa sat back and conserved their energy. There was hardly any space for the hosts to attack and their shots seemed to become more and more distant. 

It looked as if Lille might have gotten their break when the ball struck Cash’s hand in the penalty box, but their appeals were waved away, before VAR checked the decision and decided his hand was close to his body. The game couldn’t be settled in extra time and so it was to be penalties. And the moment Martínez had been waiting for was here.

Tielemans scored first before Martínez saved Bentaleb’s effort. The goalkeeper then appeared to have been sent off when he received his second yellow of the night but was saved by a little-used rule. Regulation time yellow cards are wiped clean during penalty shootouts, and the goalkeeper was on ‘better’ behaviour after the early scare. 

Ollie Watkins and Jonathan David both scored, as did Cash and Angel Gomes. A save from Chevalier on Leon Bailey looked to provide a lifeline, while Cabella levelled the matters. Douglas Luis scored for Villa before Martínez was once again called to action to prevent the captain André. With the devil’s own luck, Marítnez danced his little dance and became the only man to receive two silly yellows and still be the hero.

Lille player ratings 

Lucas Chevalier, 6 – At fault for the mistake that cost them the game, but his reactions were vital. A saved penalty in the shootout provided a lifeline, but it was not enough. 

Ismaily, 6

Bafodé Diakité, 6

Leny Yoro, 7

Tiago Santos, 6

Nabil Bentaleb, 4

Benjamin André, 5

Gabriel Gudmundsson, 7 – Substituted after full-time for Rémy Cabella. 

Hákan Haraldsson, 7 – Substituted in the 76th minute for Angel Gomes. 

Yusuf Yazıcı, 7 – Substituted in the 85th minute for Ivan Cavaleiro. The Turkish international had another impressive performance after helping to keep Lille within the tie last week. A goalscorer tonight and one of the most creative forces on the pitch. 

Jonathan David, 3 – Scoring his penalty was important, but otherwise the striker had another evening where he went missing. Struggled across the forward line to find space. 

Aston Villa selected player ratings

Emiliano Martínez, 8 – A hero and a villain on the night. One of the only players to receive two yellow cards and remain on the pitch. 

Matty Cash, 7 

Ollie Watkins, 3

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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