A determined defensive display took Villarreal into their first European final as Arsenal twice hit the woodwork in north London.
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Villarreal reached their first European final thanks to a solid and well-organised display that held off Arsenal in north London.
Match in brief
Trailing from the first leg, the home side struggled to muster much attacking threat in the first 45 minutes, the closest they came an opportunistic volley from the returning Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that clipped the outside of the post. Villarreal lost Samu Chukwueze, who was carried off on a stretcher before the half-hour, but continued to look comfortable as they protected their first-leg advantage.
Nicolas Pépé and Emile Smith Rowe both put chances wide early in the second half and Rob Holding's header flashed past the post as time started to run out. With the Gunners increasingly pushing forward, Aubameyang's header came back off the upright, but that was as close as they came as Villarreal's disciplined defence held out.
Samantha Miller, Arsenal reporter
Arsenal failed to get the goal they so desperately sought. They didn't show enough aggression or desire to win them the game, although Aubameyang can consider himself unfortunate having twice hit the woodwork. The Gunners needed more tempo and incision in the final third and didn't create enough chances or put Villarreal under enough pressure. The Spanish team were the better side and the more threatening team over the two legs.
Graham Hunter, Villarreal reporter
Nirvana. Exhaustion but paradise. A UEFA club competition final at the fifth time of asking and, what's more, a mirror image of Villarreal's most famous, most dramatic, semi final ever – the 2006 Champions League semi-final loss to the Gunners. This wasn't typical Yellow Submarine, all grit, determination, defence and fingers crossed, but they've done it.
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal head coach: "We are devastated. Really disappointed. We have to congratulate Villarreal. We tried everything until the last minute. I think we deserved to win the game, but the details define these ties. We had three big chances; they didn't have anything but they are through."
Bernd Leno, Arsenal goalkeeper: "The problem was that we didn't take our chances. Overall we were the better side. In the first half in Villarreal, we were not on our level and that is what beat us. In that second half and today we put everything in. But it was not enough, not good enough."
Unai Emery, Villarreal coach: "I'm very proud because it's very important for us and Arsenal are a very good team. We deserved it. Today we worked very well, defended very well and sometimes with the possession we controlled the match and had some options in attack to score goals. They had the best chances to score. We will enjoy this moment and then we prepare the match against Manchester United. We deserve to play this final and we will show our best performance and show we want to fight against Manchester for this title."
Pau Torres, Villarreal defender: "Tonight I'm crying tears of emotion instead of disappointment. Villarreal have missed out on so many semi-final chances to reach the final but now, finally, we've done it! These are emotional moments. The entire club, the fans, the president, the squad from last year – all of us deserve this. It's time to enjoy right now, but immediately important to prepare the final really well because that's a historic opportunity."
- Villarreal are the 61st club to reach the final of the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League.
- Villarreal had lost their four previous European semi-finals, in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League against Valencia (2003/04), Porto (2010/11) and Liverpool (2015/16) plus Arsenal in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League.
- This is the first time Arsenal have failed to reach the final of either a domestic or European cup competition since 2015/16.
Arsenal: Leno; Holding, Pablo Marí, Tierney (Willian 80); Bellerín (Nketiah 90+1), Smith Rowe, Partey, Saka; Pépé, Aubameyang (Lacazette 80), Ødegaard (Martinelli 66)
Villarreal: Rulli; Mario, Albiol, Pau Torres, Pedraza (Moreno 90+1); Parejo, Coquelin, Trigueros; Moreno, Alcácer (Bacca 72), Chuckweze (Pino 29; Gómez 90+1)
Villarreal now face Manchester United in the final. Before then, they take on Celta Vigo (09/05), Valladolid (13/05), Sevilla (16/05) and Real Madrid (23/05).