Express & Star

Emi Martinez's one word to describe dramatic Aston Villa Europa Conference win in France

Emi Martinez claimed it was his “destiny” to win in Lille after he was Villa’s penalty shoot-out hero - despite being booked twice in Thursday’s second leg.

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The Argentina international was shown his second yellow card of the night for inciting the crowd during a chaotic shoot-out in which he saved from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Andre as Villa scraped through to their first European semi-final since 1982.

Visiting players thought Martinez would have to leave the pitch when referee Ivan Kruzliak showed him a yellow card after the first round of spot-kicks, with most of the stadium unaware of the rule that cards re-set at the start of a penalty shoot-out.

Martinez will still be suspended for the first leg of the semi-final after picking up three bookings in the tournament.

But that is a worry for another day after he wrote another remarkable chapter in his career, on a famous Villa night in Europe.

Martinez, who enraged the whole of France with his antics during the 2022 World Cup final, was booed throughout by the home supporters. The shoot-out ended with riot police massed behind the goal as the keeper was mobbed by his delighted team-mates.

Martinez said: “It’s been hell of a ride all my career. I’m a believer and I’m a hard worker and it was my destiny to win here.

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“This group of players and the managers are special, the owners get involved as well, they are always behind us.

“It feels like we are going to do something special, I don't know if it's Champions League or I don't know if it’s Conference League but we try to do everything we can to push the football club.”

Villa’s performance was among their poorest of the season and they were minutes from going out after goals from Yusuf Yazici and Andre had put Lille 3-2 up on aggregate.

But Matty Cash struck via a deflected effort to send the tie to extra time, with home keeper than brilliantly denying both Douglas Luiz and Jhon Duran as the game went to penalties.

Emery said: “Emi Martinez is very important for us, he has his personality and his personality in the dressing room is very important.

“He’s a leader with the players. He’s really brilliant, his mentality, he has his personality when he plays as well. In the shoot out he was fantastic to save two and I’m very proud. He is always under control.”

Lille boss Paulo Fonseca said: “Over the two games he (Martinez) was decisive, he’s a great goalkeeper.

“In the first game we had a couple of real opportunities and he made some great saves and with the penalty shootout, a great goalkeeper.”