Aston Villa beat Lille on penalties, but Martinez suspended for first leg of semi-final

April 19 – Aston Villa progressed as the only English team to make it into the semi-finals of any of UEFA’s club competitions this season, defeating Lille away from home.

The Villans defeated the Frenchmen on penalties in the Europa Conference League, after a late equaliser from Matty Cash forced the game into extra time with an aggregate score of 3-3. Villa lost the game 2-1 on the night.

Lille duo Yazici and Andre found themselves on the scoresheet for the hosts to take a 3-2 aggregate lead before Cash’s goal levelled the tie.

World Cup winning keeper Emiliano Martinez again found himself at the centre of controversy having earned two yellow cards on the night.

The first caution was in the 39th minute, with a second yellow card being given for his gamesmanship during the penalty shoot-out. He had also been carded in the first leg.

Despite two yellow cards on the night he wasn’t given a red card as under the rules the match was completed. UEFA have said that he will be suspended for the first leg of the semi-final against Olympiakos.

Olympiakos beat Fenerbahce on penalties to go through to the semis.

Martinez has now won all of his last five penalty shootouts including the World Cup final.

Asked if he is the best ‘keeper in the world, Villa boss Unai Emery said: “He is being successful with Argentina, he is progressively getting better with Aston Villa. He is saving a lot of matches as a goalkeeper – of course, he is one of the best. The first, second, third? For me, he is the best.”

Looking ahead to Villa’s push for top four spots in the Premier League and Champions League qualification, Emery continued: “When I arrived here, in my first press conference I had the same message I have now; play in Europe, try to be a contender for a trophy and be demanding to get a better level every day. The club is being very demanding and ambitious.

“This year, we are in the last month and playing in two competitions; in Europe and in the Premier League trying to fight for a top position in the table.

“This is the level I want to keep.”

Villa will host Olympiacos on May 2 in the first leg of the semi final, before travelling to Greece a week later.

In the other semi-final Fiorentina will meet Club Bruges.

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1716029071labto1716029071ofdlr1716029071owedi1716029071sni@g1716029071niwe.1716029071yrrah1716029071