An infinite match made Villarreal eternal after three hours of epic. Because the success of the yellow club is an epic. Never before has a team of such a small population (50,000 inhabitants) been enthroned in Europe. And this Villarreal did it in a big way, with a lot of suffering, with his jaw screwed in front of the Manchester United hierarchy. Twenty-two penalties were needed to crown the yellow feat. The stumble fell to De Gea, who after a roulette from heart attack to heart attack, the other goalkeeper, Rulli, stopped the terminal launch. Final agony to elevate the seventh Spanish team that uncorks a European trophy after Real Madrid, Barça, Atlético, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza.
You know, the finals are won, they are not played, say the classics. So it was, because in football it was the game of denial by both sides. Nothing likes United more than playing at full throttle, with the Greenwood and Rashford turbo. Villarreal wants nothing more than to articulate football at the feet of Parejo and Trigueros. In Gdansk no one succeeded. Solskjaer’s team, forced to fiddle with the ball in front of an overcast opponent. The group of Emery pressed to develop in the periphery of Rulli. From the outset, the errors were perpetuated in the yellows, screwed up with the ball, Parejo lost, with Pau plasticine boots. Like all scaffolding a wild boar: Albiol, commander in chief in his area.
Villarreal did not give a second wind through his midfield cabinet. Everything required him to pull forceps even to cross the field. He would not let United put the turbo on, but in such a massive game the English team, with more physical lining, would aim for each round, each shock, each charge. And where there is shrapnel, guys like Pogba flow. By his side, without so much echo in the media sphere, is projected as a McTominay rocket, player for everything.
The meeting was taking place in a minefield where they were fighting hand to hand when Parejo had a moment of calm. Cavani ran him over on the side of the central axis. The Madrilenian made a face to the ball, cradled it, fixed it to the ground and caressed it with a clever blow. Gerard Moreno, illuminated as he is, left Shaw behind and Lindelof only arrived in time to hook the Spaniard by the shirt. But there is no one to handcuff this Gerard so the Catalan caught the shot and struck De Gea. Gerard has made goal a routine.
Where Gerard emerged, albeit episodically, Bruno Fernandes, United’s flag footballer, did not. With the Portuguese blocked, neither did Rashford and Greenwood take off on the banks, two bullets. Emery’s team only gave the sides to the sides, players with more knotted feet. The most fencing duel was the business of Albiol and Cavani, two praetorians of proven bravery. Despite the firmness of the Spanish defender, a bad sign for Villarreal, always more predisposed to football gravitate on the ball. It was never a trench team, even though in this final they held onto Albiol’s pick and Foyth’s shovel, with his head bandaged from the first minutes after an involuntary knee from the Herculean Pogba that left his nose battered. The image of Foyth quickly portrayed what awaited Villarreal: an epic resistance, the heroism of weakness.
In the truce there was no peace for the Emery boys, so stumbled with the ball before and after the break, before and after the toast to Gerard’s goal. Back from the interval, the same Villarreal, but a United even with more volume. Rulli did not receive serious warnings, but the English government was absolute. In addition, Bruno Fernandes gradually found a way to free himself.
Fastened the submarine, unable to put a parenthesis to the dominance of United, came the tie. Rashford caught a shot after a clearance in a corner, the ball bounced through a jungle of players and fell tame to Cavani. Rulli’s door was wide open.
The Spanish cadre did not find sustenance, from annoyance to annoyance. Pure survival. No way out, either with low or high beams. Nobody was able to give the team a stretch. Villarreal dwindled while Bruno Fernandes grew and grew, comrade of all, pass by pass, wall to wall. An illustrated footballer. Even with Bruno on the violins, United lacked cannons against Rulli – he received two shots on goal until extra time – and he had plenty of Albiol and his regiment. On the other side, De Gea as a tourist until he had something of a can already in extra time and let alone when the dice were thrown into the air in the penalty wheel.
Without alterations, with Villarreal to the bail, and United with an iron fist but a lot of blank, all reached the extension with an astonishing fact: with five changes Emery arrived, without a single relief Solskjaer arrived – it took a hundred minutes with the first. Perhaps the different calculation with the deposits led to the yellow set being another in the third half. Rashford cramped, Bailly cramped … Villarreal suddenly got a little more loose in the section with the most shivering, in that critical period in which so many are downcast.
And loose he arrived at the cruel wheel of penalties, that luck that does not distinguish victims and executioners. With the strict rule that goalkeepers cannot move a nail, up to 22 shots were required, 21 without failure. And no one was more a victim than De Gea. The curse of that Riquelme penalty that caused so many sleeplessness by Vila-real is over. Glory to a titanic Villarreal. Glory to the people of Pau. Glory to the patron Fernando Roig. Glory to a model institution universalized from the fallow. Glory to Emery with his fifth title. And glory to Spanish football, that next year it will have five teams in the Champions League.