National media crown Aston Villa's 'undisputed king' after improbable Lille heroics

Aston Villa players celebrating
Aston Villa will face Olympiakos in the Europa Conference League semi-final -Credit:Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu via Getty Images

Aston Villa will play in a major European semi-final for the first time since 1982 after defeating Lille in a penalty shoot-out in the Europa Conference League.

Unai Emery's side won 4-3 on penalties, with Emi Martinez becoming the hero of the night. He saved two penalties after Matty Cash scored an equaliser in the 87th minute to take the game to extra-time.

Yusuf Yazici scored the opening goal in the first half before Benjamin Andre doubled the host's lead. Villa were second best for the majority of the first period, failing to register a shot on target. Late on, Cash slammed the ball through a crowd of bodies to draw level in the tie.

READ MORE: John Townley's Aston Villa player ratings after Emi Martinez heroics books semi-final place

ALSO READ: Unai Emery lauds Emi Martinez after penalty heroics in Lille sends Aston Villa into European semi-fina

BirminghamLive takes a look at how the national media reported on events.

BBC Sport, Neil Johnston

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery thought Emiliano Martinez had been sent off in a chaotic penalty shootout against Lille before the goalkeeper made the save that sent his side through to their first major European semi-final since 1982.

In an extraordinary shootout after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate after extra time, Villa keeper Martinez - who had been booked earlier for time-wasting - was shown another yellow card for appearing to gesture to home fans. Martinez, who had already kept out Nabil Bentaleb's penalty, was allowed to carry on as his initial booking was not carried over into the shootout.

The Argentina World Cup winner then went on to keep out Benjamin Andre's attempt as Villa won 4-3 on penalties to advance to the last four. Martinez then ran virtually the whole length of the pitch to celebrate in front of Villa's jubilant 2,600 travelling fans.

Earlier in the shootout, Ollie Watkins was made to wait to take his penalty as there were two balls on the pitch before the England forward stepped up to score. On a dramatic night in northern France, Emery's side were three minutes from going out after goals by Yusuf Yazici and Benjamin Andre wiped out Villa's 2-1 advantage from the first leg.

But Matty Cash's 87th-minute deflected strike - after goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier had dropped a cross - made it 3-3 on aggregate and forced extra time which did not produce any further goals leaving the tie to be decided by penalties. Aston Villa will face the winners of Olympiakos against Fenerbahce in the semi-final.

Read more, here.

The Telegraph, John Percy

Whatever the occasion, however hostile the environment, Emiliano Martinez is the undisputed king of the penalty shoot-out.

Martinez simply thrives on these pressure cooker situations and took centre stage again to leave Lille as both the hero and villain, after an utterly absorbing European night. Sixteen months after playing a key role in helping Argentina beat France in the World Cup Final, Les Bleus’ Public Enemy No. 1 was the spot-kick destroyer to extend Unai Emery’s magical record in Europe.

Saving penalties from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Andre, Martinez turned to the Lille fans to perform a dance after the final kick before running the length of the pitch to the Villa fans sitting high in Stade Pierre-Mauroy as chants of “Emi Martinez, the world’s No. 1” echoed around the stunned stadium. He was also booked twice, with the second caution for inciting the crowd shortly after saving Bentaleb’s penalty.

Martinez clearly feared he would be sent off, yet avoided a red card as the rules stipulate that cautions during the 120 minutes cannot be carried into penalties. Villa are now preparing for a semi-final next month, with their hopes of ending a 28-year wait for silverware remaining improbably alive.

They will go into that tie with Olympiakos as the last English team left standing in Europe, as Liverpool and West Ham both failed to overturn deficits in the Europa League to follow both Arsenal and Manchester City in crashing out of European competition on Wednesday night. This was hardly a classic European performance from Emery, the serial trophy winner, but provided further evidence that the best managers can also rely on fortune from time to time.

Read more, here.

The Guardian, Ben Fisher

Long before Emiliano Martínez was booked for time-wasting 39 minutes into this tempestuous knockout tie, there was an air of inevitability that the Aston Villa goalkeeper would prove the hero.

So he was, with Martínez saving superbly from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin André in a 4-3 penalty shootout victory after Matty Cash’s speculative late strike prevented Lille from advancing and took the game to extra time. Martínez was mobbed by his teammates, Morgan Rogers jumping for a piggyback as Villa’s players charged towards their delirious supporters stationed high in the stand at the opposite end. That, however, is only half of the story.

The whole game boiled down to a ludicrous crescendo, Martínez the centre of attention. Of course, he relished being the pantomime villain as he took on a French team for the first time since his World Cup heroics for Argentina in Qatar, when he thwarted Kingsley Coman from 12 yards, and he was up to his old tricks.

His every touch was jeered from the off by the locals and, already on a booking, he was cautioned again by the referee, Ivan Kruzliak, during the spot-kicks after being warned for gamesmanship – another dollop of shithousery, you could say – but avoided being sent off and leaving Villa in the unprecedented scenario of being without a goalkeeper for the rest of the shootout because cautions are not carried forward into penalties. At the time, nobody seemed too sure.

After saving from Bentaleb, Martínez turned to shush the Lille supporters behind his goal and then incited the crowd further as Ollie Watkins moseyed forwards to take his spot-kick. At that point the referee had a word with Martínez and then, moments later, saw fit to flash another yellow card in his direction after his continued efforts to antagonise the home fans. Martínez conceded his reputation went before him, insisting his opposite number, Lucas Chevalier, was also guilty of time-wasting during the tie.

Read more, here.

The Daily Mail, Tom Collomosse

Emi Martinez might be the world's best goalkeeper but the Aston Villa star is also the greatest wind-up merchant on the planet.

Martinez's brilliant saves in the penalty shoot-out knocked out Lille and sent Villa to their first European semi-final since 1982. But Goodness me, do we really need the ridiculous antics that go with it?

Martinez was booked during the shoot-out – his second of the game after being penalised for running down the clock in the first half. He was not sent off only because yellow cards issued in general play do not carry through when the game reaches penalties. It seems unlikely Martinez knew this rule, given his panicked gestures when referee Ivan Kruzliak approached.

'It's all about reputation because the other goalie was doing exactly the same thing (time wasting in normal play),' said Martinez. 'I got a yellow after 30 minutes and we were losing the game so I don't know what the ref wants from me. 'Then there was no ball on the penalty spot during the shoot out. I was asking for a ball from the ball boy and I get booked. I just don't understand the rules.'

These days Martinez has a self-confidence bordering on arrogance and he can certainly back it up. But once he has retired he may regret some of the ludicrous behaviour that risks detracting from his enormous talent.

Read more, here.

The Independent, Chris Wilson

Emiliano Martinez was the unsurprising star of a dramatic penalty shootout as Aston Villa edged past Lille and into the semi-final of the Europa Conference League.

The Argentina goalkeeper, who helped his country win the World Cup 18 months ago, produced some similar heroics in France, saving spot-kicks from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Andre to earn a 4-3 shootout win after the quarter-final had ended 3-3 on aggregate after two legs.

There was plenty of his trademark dark arts on show as he shushed the baiting French crowd, who had not forgotten what happened in Qatar, and then caused confusion by receiving a yellow card from the referee in the middle of the shootout, having already been booked in normal time.

But bookings are not carried forward into the shootout meaning he could stay on and send Villa into a first European semi-final since 1982.

Read more, here.