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Europa Conference League QF: Lille 2 Aston Villa 1 (agg 3-3, 3-4 pens) - Report

Sometimes you really can’t script it any better.

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Emi Martinez, on his first match in France since enraging the nation, was again the penalty shoot-out hero as Villa scraped through to their first European semi-final since 1982.

The Argentina international saved penalties from Nabil Bentaleb and then the clincher from Benjamin Andre amid chaotic scenes at the Stade Pierre Mauroy Stadium.

Martinez, booed throughout the night, was booked for time-wasting during the first half and then shown another yellow for inciting the crowd having put his finger to his lips after keeping out Bentaleb’s spot-kick.

That sparked more confusion thanks to the little known rule cards are re-set at the start of a shoot-out. Martinez made his winning penalty save with riot police behind the goal and was mobbed by the entire Villa squad.

Unai Emery's men had been just minutes from exiting the competition when goals from Yusuf Yazici and Andre had put Lille 3-2 up on aggregate. But a mistake from home goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier allowed Matty Cash to score via a deflection and though Chevalier made two brilliant saves to deny Villa in extra time and then saved from Leon Bailey in the shoot-out, this was not his night.

Instead, it belonged to Martinez and Villa. Thanks to the goalkeeper, one of their poorest performances of the season resulted in one of their greatest European nights.

Lille will wonder how they didn't triumph. For 86 minutes, they appeared in complete control. Yet the mistake from Chevalier gave Villa a lifeline which they eventually capitalised on thanks to Martinez.

The 31-year-old knew he would be in for a hot reception following his antics during and after the 2022 World Cup final. But in typical fashion, he appeared to revel in the hatred, even if for much of the 90 minutes Villa were second best. This was Emery's eighth straight quarter-final win in European competition and surely among the most fortunate.

Lille were better from the get go and within 15 minutes had levelled the tie Leny Yoro picked out Gudmundsson’s run with a crossfield pass and his cross pulled behind the retreating Villa defence was into the path of Yazici, who curled a low finish into the bottom corner. Martinez did not move.

It needed a big save from the Villa keeper, using his face, to prevent Andre from putting his side ahead in the tie before the break.

Aston Villa's Matty Cash, right, celebrates with his teammate Aston Villa's Ezri Konsa

A prevailing theory at half-time was Villa could not play worse in the second period but disaster nearly struck within seconds of the restart. Hakon Haraldsson robbed Tielemans 25 yards from the visiting goal and thumped a shot just wide of the post.

Villa, finally, did begin to improve. Cash had their first chance of the evening 10 minutes into the second half, thumping a rising shot into the side-netting after McGinn had rolled Diaby’s pass into his path.

But defending corners had been an issue for Villa all through the tie and midway through the second half trouble struck again when Andre got ahead of Watkins and several other visiting players to flick Haraldsson’s delivery in off the bar and post.

Cash finally forced Chevalier into meaningful work with 10 minutes remaining, his shot from distance forcing the keeper to tip over.

But it was impossible to see where a goal was coming from until Villa were gifted one. Chevalier caught Digne’s cross but spilled it after colliding with Bentaleb on the way down. Duran’s blocked shot then fell to Cash on the edge of the box and his low drive took a nick off Gudmundsson on its way into the net.

Even then, Villa were lucky to reach extra time. Former Wolves winger Ivan Cavaleiro, on as a substitute, saw a shot deflected over after a dreadful Konsa pass and from the corner, Bafode Diakite headed straight at Martinez from six yards out.

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The first half of extra time brought redemption of sorts for Chevalier, who saved Bailey’s powerful effort and then somehow reacted in time to keep out Luiz’s header on the rebound.

Tiago Santos, impressive in both matches, then pulled a shot wide early in the second additional period, while Cash survived a heart-in-mouth moment when a cross struck his arm in the box. Referee Kruzliak missed it, with video assistant Pol van Boekel ruling the arm had been in a natural position.

With a minute of extra time remaining, Chevalier denied Duran the winner with a brilliant save with his right boot.

Aston Villa players celebrate their win against Lille

The game was now in Martinez’s territory. He ran up to pick the ball up before Bentaleb took his spot-kick, then dived to his left to save. Chaos ensued as he turned to the crowd and put his finger to his lips. Referee Kruzliak spoke to the keeper, then showed him a yellow card. Most in the ground thought he had been sent-off but cards are re-set at the start of a shoot-out, so he stayed on and was once more the hero and villain, denying Andre with his legs.

Lille (4-2-3-1) Chevalier; T Santos, Yoro, Diakite, Ismaily; Andre, Bentaleb; Yazici (Cavaleiro 86), Haraldsson (Gomes 77), Gudmundsson; David Subs not used: Alexsandro, Cabella, Ounas, Morais, Bouaddi, Toure, Ferrah, Mannone (gk), Negri (gk).

Villa (4-4-2): Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne, McGinn © (Duran 80), Luiz, Tielemans, Zaniolo (Rogers 28) Diaby (Bailey 68), Watkins Subs not used: Carlos, Lenglet, Kesler-Hayden, Iroegbunam, Munroe, Kellyman, Olsen (gk), Gauci (gk).