Unai Emery’s Villareal put up a fine performance against his previous employer’s Arsenal in the first leg of their semi-final. Nicolas Pepe gave the Gunners a lifeline going into the second leg. The Gunners had the worst possible start when Manuel Trigueros put them ahead on the five-minute mark after some dreadful defending. Raul Albiol then cantered into the six-yard box from a corner to give the hosts a two-goal lead.
Arsenal struggled to keep up with Villareal and was down to ten when Ceballos went in studs first in a tackle on Dani Ceballos. but with time running out, they were handed a lifeline when Bukayo Saka was tripped by Trigueros. Nicolas Pepe stepped up to dispatch the penalty past Geronimo Rulli in the Villareal goal.
Villarreal: Rulli (7), Foyth (7), Albiol (7), Pau (7), Pedraza (6), Parejo (7), Capoue (5), Trigueros (7), Chukwueze (7), Alcacer (6), G Moreno (6).
Subs: Coquelin (7), Gaspar (6), A Moreno (6), Gomez (6).
Arsenal: Leno (7), Chambers (6), Holding (6), Mari (5), Xhaka (5), Partey (5), Ceballos (3), Saka (7), Odegaard (5), Smith Rowe (6), Pepe (7).
Subs: Martinelli (6), Aubameyang (6), Willian (n/a), Elneny (n/a).
Man of the match: Juan Foyth
Mikel Arteta: “We didn’t want to come here and lose obviously but the way the game developed, being 2-0 down and with 10 men, it’s probably the best result we could have.” he said. “They were two different halves. In the first half, there were so many moments that we weren’t us. We weren’t clear with our high press, we were disorganized, we were not precise with the ball and we didn’t have enough control.”
Unai Emery: “In the second half, we started with a little more defensiveness because they pushed it on us, but we had chances to score the third goal and that was our plan.” he said. “The two expulsions changed the match, but the penalty is not a penalty. I think we deserved this victory. We deserved to do it with more difference [in the scoreline], but we play there again with the same plan, thinking of the control and to play with our personality and to take the performances into the second leg.”