GDANSK, Poland, May 27, (AP): Villarreal goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli decided a marathon shootout by converting his own spot kick and then saving one from counterpart David de Gea as the Spanish team beat Manchester United 11-10 on penalties Wednesday to win the Europa League final. After a 1-1 draw following extra time, all 10 outfield players from both teams made their penalties in the shootout – leaving it up to the two goalkeepers to take the 11th. Rulli sent his penalty into the top corner but De Gea’s lacked power and was stopped by the Villarreal keeper. As Rulli lay on the grass after his save, the entire team ran over and piled on top of the Argentine goalkeeper.
It was an upset to savor as Villarreal – a team from a city of about 50,000 people – secured the first major trophy in the 98-year history of the club by beating one of European soccer’s giants. It also secured a lucrative Champions League spot for next season rather than playing in the new third-tier Europa Conference League after Villarreal only finished seventh in the Spanish league. And they stopped an English sweep of the two big European competitions before Chelsea and Manchester City play the Champions League final on Saturday. “It feels really good,” Villarreal midfielder Francis Coquelin said. “When you go down to the end it’s the winner taking it all. It was tough, we had a tough game.
Manchester put a lot of pressure on us, especially in the first half.” For Villarreal coach Unai Emery it was a record fourth Europa League title and offered a measure of redemption after he was fired by Arsenal last season. Emery was hoisted aloft by his players before they received their medals. He won three Europa League titles in a row with Sevilla from 2014 through 2016 and lost the 2019 final with Arsenal against Chelsea. “We worked hard this season and I think we deserved to win and to do something important,” Emery said. “We are going to enjoy each moment but above all we are going to prepare for the next season to prepare in the Champions League and have this opportunity with very big teams.” Villarreal’s win also ensured that United went a fourth consecutive season without a trophy for the first time since the 1980s and left their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still looking for his first title. United’s last silverware was the Europa League in 2017. United dominated the early possession but it was Villarreal who made the breakthrough. Gerard Moreno pushed past Victor Lindelöf at a free kick in the 29th minute and strained to prod Daniel Perejo’s cross past De Gea in the United goal