Two Premier League sides are looking to make it through to the UEFA Europa League final this season. However, Arsenal and Manchester United achieved significantly different results in their semi-final ties against Villarreal and AS Roma, respectively.
Midway through the 2019/20 season, Arsenal decided to sack their manager Unai Emery. The Spaniard was a year into his stint as the Arsenal boss when the club decided they had had enough of him. Despite leading the team to a Europa League Final in his first season, Emery was let go. Last night, his former side played his current one, Villarreal, in this season’s Europa League semi-final and the Spanish tactician had his revenge.
Just five minutes into the match, Arsenal fell behind. The Gunners failed to deal with Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze, who had carried the ball into their penalty box. A stray challenge took the ball off him but laid it into the path of Manu Trigueros, who smashed it past Bernd Leno with a first-time strike.
Villarreal restricted the Gunners inside their own half during the opening phases. Arteta’s decision not to deploy an out-and-out striker meant that the players had no out ball to play. Emery’s team capitalized on the same and were up by two goals before half-time. A corner was flicked into the path of Raul Albiol by Gerard Moreno, and the defender fired the ball into the roof of the net.
Arsenal thought they had a penalty in the first half when Nicholas Pepe was fouled just inside the box by Juan Foyth. However, the referee consulted VAR and pointed in the other direction. As it turned out, Pepe had handled the ball in the build-up. To make matters worse, Arsenal had a man sent off for fouls on either side of the break. Dani Ceballos was the one who received his marching orders, and his team were down to ten.
Villarreal later had a man sent off themselves when Etienne Capoue was shown a red card. Before that, Arsenal had halved the deficit and scored the all-important away goal through the penalty spot. Pepe converted the spot-kick after Bukayo Saka was fouled by Trigueros inside the area.
Arteta and Co will welcome Emery back to London next week. Arsenal have a massive task on their hands, made moderately easy by the away goal.
Meanwhile, in the other semi-final, Manchester United thrashed AS Roma, 6-2. The Red Devils will take the insurmountable lead with them to Rome next week, where the Giallorrosi will hope for a miracle.
Manchester United took the lead in this match before the ten-minute mark. Bruno Fernandes was played in behind the defence by Edinson Cavani, and the midfielder dinked the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. However, much to the shock of the home side, Roma had turned the game around by the 33rd minute. Lorenzo Pellegrini scored from the penalty spot before teeing up Edin Dzeko to score Roma’s second goal.
United, like they have done so many times this season, then mounted a comeback of their own. Cavani scored the leveller shortly after the break before then netting the go-ahead goal in the 64th minute. Fernandes scored from the penalty spot shortly after to make it 4-2 to Manchester United.
The Red Devils weren’t finished yet. Paul Pogba rose highest to head home a Fernandes delivery following a set-piece. The Frenchman made amends for his earlier foul, which had led to the Roma penalty. Manchester United scored their sixth and final goal of the match four minutes from time. Cavani picked out the run of Mason Greenwood with a sensational pass before the youngster carried the ball forward and scored past Antonio Mirante in goal.
As a result of their huge win, Manchester United already have one foot in the Europa League Final. Arsenal, on the other hand, have some work left to do if they want to reach the final themselves.